"It took centuries for us
to make them believe
we were only bad dreams.
We cannot give them reason to suspect.
Destroy them all."
- Head Vampire Dude -
Let’s just be honest here: something happened to vampires in the past twenty years. And I’m not sure if we should blame Anne Rice, Joss Whedon, or Keifer Sutherland for this (notice, I did not mention Wesley Snipes, I will not even dignify the tragic BLADE trilogy as a possible culprit), but somewhere along the way vampires became something other than a monstrous nightmare: they became a freaking social fetish. Vampires are no longer the blood-thirsty un-dead with a history of manslaughter predating the time of Christ. No, now vampires are sleek and sexy; black-leather clad pigmentationless trance clubbers; Hot Topic discount rack career day possibilities; batty fodder for bad internet poetry. Vampires have become practically human. And cute-human at that.
(Alright, alright. Before making myself out as some nail in the fun-coffin vampire purist, I should confess: I rather enjoyed Kate Beckinsale’s vampirism in UNDERWORLD. We all reserve our exceptions.)
But then, in our hour of darkest need, a savior arrives. The film 30 DAYS OF NIGHT may boast the distinction of single-handedly saving vampire lore. In this film adaptation of Steven Niles’ same-titled graphic novel, vampires strike a small town in Alaska at its weakest moment: the span of constant night in deep winter. Only in this story, the vampires are not cute, nor do they have much interest in rationing out their food supply. These vampires are old creatures from a far country, arriving on boat with a barely human guide to pave their way. They speak an ancient language and wear the evidence of their kills like bearded trophies soaking their jowls. They do not dance. They do not fly. They do not smoke designer cigarettes, swagger their hips when they walk, or wear Catholic schoolgirl skirts while flirting with their tongues. They do not entice their prey. They just hunt and descend – the way good vampires should.
I will add that 30 DAYS OF NIGHT is not for the WB’s average Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. Violent and gruesome, both in visual and sound effects, this film leaves little to the imagination. 30 DAYS OF NIGHT is literary, hungry and shockingly atypical of the modern horror genre. Pressing all its weight into storytelling and character exploration, this film reads more like a sickly twisted bedtime tale than merely the next horror film flavor-of-the-month. Leading roles by Josh Hartnett and Melissa George also allow the film to skip the bored genre antics that cause most vampires films to feel cartoony, rather than rich and echoing with ancient monster lore.
To put it bluntly: this film is the real deal. Scary. Dark. Bloody. Jugular in the places it hits. After two decades of playing goth-shop dress-up games, this film resurrects a lore that remains fortunately un-dead.