OCTOBER 28, 2010
I wasn't a big fan of 30 Days Of Night, but it was at least a good alternative to other vampire stuff that was out there, boasted some impressive gore and beautiful cinematography, and assembled a good group of characters to keep you from knowing who would die and when right off the bat. The sequel, 30 Days Of Night: Dark Days, boasts none of those things, and is ultimately just a generic DTV vampire movie with a script that borrows heavily from Blade (and sequels) and From Dusk Til Dawn, not to mention its source material that wasn't that memorable to begin with (they would have been wise to come up with their own story, I think).
But the biggest problem is the recasting. Nothing against Kiele Sanchez, but she's no Melissa George, nor does she attempt to play the role in any similar way - which is a big problem when the movie is essentially about her journey to put her life back together after the events of the first movie, while dealing with the emptiness she feels over the loss of her husband. Since the character is so far removed from the one we know/already care about, and the two actresses look nothing alike, it just seems like a brand new character - one that they haven't really developed. She's just some broad. Sorry about your husband and all, but why do I care? This also makes the would-be shock ending carry no weight whatsoever; in the comic it was horrifying, but here it just feels like a typical sequel setup/lazy horror movie ending.
Sanchez of course was clumsily inserted into another geek series: Lost. She played Nikki, a character hated by pretty much everyone (including the show's writers, apparently). Luckily, she had a fellow castaway with her here - Harold Perrineau (Michael, best known for shouting WALLLLLLLLLT!) plays one of the vampire hunters she joins up with and eventually takes over (yeah, in addition to the various vampire movie "homages", there's also a bit of a Matrix vibe to her journey). They are matched by a pair of 24 regulars - Mandy (Mia Kirschner) and Sean (Rhys Coiro) are also on board. The only exception among the main cast is Diora Baird, who is known more for her horror films than serialized fan favorite TV shows. Of them, Perrineau fares best, since he is introduced, does almost nothing, and gets killed 10 minutes later, likely inspiring jealous feelings from his castmates who have to stick around a lot longer.
Also, for alleged vampire hunters who have turned this into their life's mission, they sure do suck at it. Stella does most of the killing, and they go into danger shockingly unprepared. If you're battling vampires, why only bring guns? How about some UV lights or holy water (if that works on these particular vamps, I don't think it's ever mentioned in either film)? Stella even has a bunch of them - in one of the film's few good scenes, she holds a conference about how vampires are real, points out that some always follow her, and then floods the room with UV lights that she rigged up to "out" the vamps in the crowd. Why not bring some along? Oh, because then they couldn't have an easy way to get to the film's primary form of an action scene, which is to charge into a room, kill maybe one, get in trouble, and then run away.
And it's a shame, because production wise, it's not that bad. It's not as good-looking as it's bigger budgeted predecessor, but it's miles ahead of the usual DTV fare - I could almost picture seeing this in a theater. The vampire makeup is just as good (though they overuse the digital blood), and there are some really cool deaths, particularly a beheading that involves hanging hooks. And I liked the final fight between Stella and Lilith (Kirschner) - ain't nothing wrong with two hot ladies throwing down whilst covered in blood. I will assume that the budget prevented them from getting too crazy though - the original was pretty hard R at times for a theatrical major studio release, but this is pretty tame for the most part.
I will also give it credit for adding a bit more drama to the proceedings. Coiro's character is borderline suicidal, and him and Stella form a bond and share a number of quiet moments that I wasn't expecting to see in this sort of thing. Hell even their obligatory sex scene is kind of sad; two broken folks trying to feel and all that. And the sequel does have its own identity while keeping ties to the original - the locale has changed, the plot is different, etc, but apart from the recasting, it's not so far removed that it feels like a different movie entirely that they just slapped the 30 Days title on in post production. But the film as a whole just doesn't gel - the action is lazy and repetitive, the characters act like idiots, and the most interesting asset they have (a vampire who has retained his human side and aids them) is left on the sidelines for far too much of the movie.
Writer/director Ben Ketai provides a commentary track (one of the producers is there too but he barely says anything). It's a decent track, blending story discussion with technical nuts and bolts stuff. Sort of like the movie itself - it's "fine" but wholly unnecessary. A brief making of is also included, but it's the sort of glossy and fluffy nonsense I have no patience for.
I own something like 12 different mini-series of the comic, but I've only read the first two (which would be the original and the "Dark Days" sequel). I don't recall much of the book but this one hits a few of the bullet points (the ending, the UV "surprise" at the conference), so kudos for blending the "needs" of the comic fans with the needs to make a movie on a certain budget. And at least if there's a part 3 I will go in blind, because I assume that between now and then I won't suddenly have the urge to read comic books from 3-4 years ago that are likely buried underneath the long boxes of my newer titles. But I'm certainly not holding my breath.
What say you?