With all the days skipped over, why not call it ’30 Minutes of Highlights?’
The small northern town of Barrow, Alaska, spends 30 days in a row every year in complete darkness. Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) is the sheriff in town, and on the last evening before the final sunset, clues point to an impending disaster too late to avert it. With a mysterious stranger (Ben Foster) talking jibberish about “death coming for them” and the sheriff’s estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) trapped with them for the month, the townsfolk soon learn that their beloved homes have become a feeding ground for the bloodthirsty undead.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the film version wastes no time in setting up its premise, but sadly skips between highlights with little or no transition. The effect does move the audience quicker through the film towards the action sequences, but overall the film feels more like a zombie picture with preternatural vampires standing in for the usual lumber husks. A nice change, sure, but the survival bits without the vampires (biting cold, lack of food) are non-existent while the horror bits are somewhat familiar. The entire subplot between the husband and wife is not only unexplored, it just plain uninteresting, too.
The production seems intent on showcasing the look of their monsters yet shies away from us getting to know any of them except from the character’s points of view. Marlow (played by Danny Huston), is apparently the leader, but ends up grunting commands like a werewolf as well as spends plenty of time howling (are these hybrids or what?) Lastly, the vampires seem to get weaker and slower as the production wears on, almost as if giving the heroes a chance not to be dinner, whereas the film started out with these things chasing down vehicles and flipping them over. Do these vamps get sluggish after a meal?
The premise and first act is amazing to watch, setting up a truly scary situation. The second act drags on too long, making us forget what was so interesting about these monsters to begin with. By the time the story winds down, nothing is too surprising, and with too few interesting humans and too little background for the vampires, the ending fall short of the epic confrontation we hoped for. Not to be too cynical, doesn’t the US Government monitor communication lines in case towns like Barrow, Alaska, get cut off? Great setup, a mediocre middle, and no follow through make this story a swing and a miss, although an entertainingly bloody mess to watch.
(a two skull recommendation out of four)