Dir: David Slade US. 2007. 117 mins.
Horror thriller 30 Days of Night is like a very one-sided football match: there's not much suspense involved but at least you get to watch one team - in this case a gang of athletic and bloodthirsty vampires - beat up on the other. Based on a cult graphic novel series and directed by British commercials whiz David Slade, this visually stylish yet dramatically flat offering from Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures could hit a nerve with hardcore comic book and horror fans, though its mainstream crossover potential appears to be limited.
Columbia Pictures opens the R-rated film wide in North America this weekend with a big advertising push reminiscent of the campaign for that other thirtysomething comic book adaptation, 300.
Approaching 300's domestic box office tally is unlikely, especially with horror competition coming next weekend from Saw IV. But in the run up to Halloween, 30 Days could make a good start on recouping its reported $30m budget.
Sony Pictures Releasing International begins the overseas rollout in November.
Grosses in horror-friendly territories should be strong, especially if the graphic novels have been published locally.
The screenplay by Steve Niles (who wrote the graphic novels with Ben Templesmith), Stuart Beattie (Collateral) and Brian Nelson (writer ofSlade's first feature, Hard Candy) swiftly establishes that the inhabitants of Barrow are cut off in their remote town for the 30 days each year in which, in this part of Alaska, the sun never rises.
This year, though, the hardy townspeople - including Sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett) and his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George, from The Amityville Horror) - will be visited by Marlow (Danny Huston, from Children of Men) and his troupe of vicious vampires, man-eating machines intent on making the most of the freedom afforded to them by a month of darkness.
There's no attempt to explain the vampires' history and not much of one to flesh out the human characters (reportedly, research audiences prompted a decision to cut out most of the romantic interaction between the Sheriff and his wife).
What remains are the vampires themselves and the film's impressive visual style.
Imaginative work by the make-up and effects teams of Weta Workshop in New Zealand (where the film was shot) produces vampires that look like crosses between surly Goth rockers, psycho killers and toothy aliens.
Some of them intersperse their bloodlust howls with cryptic utterances - handily subtitled for non-Vampire speakers - in their own guttural language.
The vampire's attacks are nicely manic - think of an over-zealous contestant at a pie eating contest - but they get repetitive after the first few kills.
Shot by Jo Willems, the Belgian cinematographer who also worked on Niles' Hard Candy, and designed by Paul Denham Austerberry (Resident Evil: Apocalypse), the film has an arresting desaturated look that recalls the style of another recent comic book adaptation, Sin City (in which Hartnett also appeared).
Ghost House Pictures
Dark Horse Entertainment
Sony Pictures Releasing International
Based on the comic by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith
Director of photography
Paul Denham Austerberry
Mark Boone Junior