I just recently saw 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, the sequel to 30 days of Night and was sorely disappointed. I know that I was a straight- to-video release and had much less of a budget and no big league names like Josh Harnett in it but I just came away a bit dismayed because I have long felt the first film was simply great. Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles the movie takes an interesting twist on the vampire myth by pitting the residents of the far north town of Barrows Alaska against a band of vampires who strike during the period when any sunlight is absent for a month. I thought it was great idea and the film played out well from start to finish and director David Slade (Hard Candy, Twilight Sage: Eclipse and numerous music videos) generates plenty of action and drama between the characters, good and evil, who play out the roles of hunters and hunted in the dark little town until the sun rises again. 30 Days of Night had a budget of $ 30 million to work with which is a fairly healthy chink for a horror film. The film made its money back and then some and even had a number one spot at the box office for a few days.
I have not had the opportunity to read the graphic novel (that wonderful euphemism for comic book) but would like to. While the film is rather popular and successful I still want to say something about it since 30 Days of Night and its shallow sequel are excellent examples of what it is about newer horror films that I both love and hate. And for better or worse I notice I see myself preferring those films with the bigger budgets and talent anymore. Dark Days is not, as far as I can tell, shot on video but it is a shabby story at best even though Steve Niles co-wrote the script and said that the storyline was closer to his comic book vision. While the original film leaves you wondering who these truly sinister vampires were and where they came from and where they are heading the sequel left me numb to discover they are now in LA of all places. The vampires in both films have some resemblance to zombies I felt but in the sequel it is almost hard to tell the action from any number of zombie flicks out there. In some scenes you have vampires in dark tunnels simply running unamrmed into machine gun fire and being killed off by the gun fire even. The addition of some ‘royal’ type vampire figure named Lilith –jeesh, of all names why that one- really brought the film down to the cornball level and the dark mystery surrounding the vampires of the first film was lost. I simply do not accept this and prefer to keep my own original theories about them.
The characters in the first film were fleshed out and developed well while in the second film they seem more to be characters in an actual comic book with comic book problems and solutions. The role of Stella was played deftly by Melissa George in the first film but in the sequel Kiele Sanchez tries to turn Stella into one of those annoying and unbelievable new tough gals who stare you down and deliver Dirty Harry style one liners with an icy tone. The relationship between her and the small band of vampire hunters is superficial at best even when she has sex with one. The camera work in the first film was excellent with its dark ttones and frantic editing as was the soundtrack, but in the sequel all of that is discarded due to the lack of budget and therefore the lack of talent that no money projects attract. For me it was hard to go from a professionally made film like 30 Days of Night to Dark Days and not feel a little ripped off. Of course I live in China and bought a pirated version of both films for about one US dollar. I either buy cheap DVDs here or get all my stuff from BTs or Rapidshare sites, so I am not out money. But I was out an evening’s worth of entertainment. I am surprised to see some negativity towards 30 Days of Night online and that may be due to its success and the connection via David Slade the film has to the rabidly maligned Twilight series. I think it is, to be frank, a far superior film to what Slade did for the Twilight films which did seem to fizzle after the first film.
I think if the second film had been about something else other than the continuation of the story from the first film I would have accepted it as a decent little low budget vampire flick, but I have seldom seen a supposed sequel miss the mark as much as this one. Or if the first film had been a low budget straight-to-video feature itself I would not be comparing them as I am now with an obvious slant towards the first and much better film. If you have not seen either film I can recommend the first film as one highly. Loaded with explicit violence and bloodstained snow it is sure to satisfy the gore-hound in most of us, but it also develops the human characters and their distress and frictions. It also creates some of the most interesting vampires I have seen in a while –the leader played with villainous charm by Danny Huston- who even speak in their own hellish language. The second film just sucks and even shows Stella’s character nude and having sex with one of the vampire hunters. Total cheap shot and the scene seems to have nothing to do with the character as she was portrayed in original film. And the films title has nothing to with the original either since LA, as far as I know, does not black out for thirty days in the winter. Avoid this one or proceed at your own risk, or just know what you’re getting into which is something as far from the first film as you can get.