Sunday, October 21, 2007

Streebo on 30 Days of Night -- The Film (link to

Streebo reviews 30 Days of Night at Below I have excerpted the first paragraph of his review -- click it to go to the whole thing. But I do have a quick question for him below.

First, here's a bit of backstory for you. As you know by now, Streebo is a long time reader of comic books and when the story of 30 Days of Night came out in 2003 (?) I was eager to read it. I was immediately impressed by the simplicity of the concept – if not the execution. Ben Templesmith's dark and atmospheric art helped keep the book horrific and violent throughout. The story by Steve Niles was unchallenging, simple and brilliant all at the same time. I remember reading the book and thinking this was a cool enough graphic novel – but it would make an amazing movie. Apparently Steve Niles originally wrote 30 Days of Night as a screenplay and shopped it around Hollywood for years. He never drew interest in the script – so he converted the script into a graphic novel. The comic comes out and is a huge hit. The next thing you know Hollywood comes knocking on Steve Niles' door. Niles dusted off his script and Sam Raimi's Ghosthouse pictures gave him a one million dollar check for it. Now fast forward four years later. . .

I have not seen 30 Days of Night, and it is not likely I will anytime soon, but I wondered, Streebo, if you would like to respond to the following criticism of the film on the AV Club. Again I have not seen the film, but it seems like a devastating thing to say. It is the kind of thing that makes me avoid a film.

For some unaccountable reason, a key conflict [from the graphic novel] within the vampire ranks doesn't make the big-screen transition, so the bulk of the drama falls to a stock collection of human characters. Which is more interesting: Vampires fighting over the potential long-term blowback of their Alaskan buffet, or a couple of exes bonding under duress? Seems like an easy decision, but 30 Days Of Night makes the wrong choice.


neilshyminsky said...

I might rent this film eventually, or catch it in the repertory cinema down the street (if it even gets there), if only because I need to see a film that earned this quote from a review (I posted this at my own blog, but what the hell...):

"'30 Days of Night' is a stupid, stupid film, a disaster at the script and casting stages. It's like a turd covered in tasty Ghirardelli chocolate - as soon as you sink your teeth in you know you've got mouthful of sweetened shit."

Streebo said...

Holy cow. I decide to check Geoff's blog before I go to bed and this is what I see!

"For some unaccountable reason, a key conflict within the vampire ranks doesn't make the big-screen transition, so the bulk of the drama falls to a stock collection of human characters. Which is more interesting: Vampires fighting over the potential long-term blowback of their Alaskan buffet, or a couple of exes bonding under duress?"

Hmmm. . .This might be a valid criticism in terms of adapting the film from the actual graphic novel. I accept the film as an entity separate from the graphic novel and it deserves to be judged as a separate work. Unfortunately my copy of the graphic novel is on loan to a friend at the moment and I haven't read it since 2003. The question is not of what is more interesting - but which one helps build the needed feelings of dread? The film doesn't go into the politics of the graphic novel instead opting for the simple setup of the situation of isolated characters trying to survive the vampire onslaught. Horror films are meant to scare us plain and simple. End of story. I love a good horror film or superhero story with subtext and implied metaphor as much as anyone – but it is simply not needed in this situation. This film is about creating effective tension and scares by placing the characters in what seems to be a rather hopeless situation. This is not about "drama" - but rather about creating fear.

The character development is kept to a minimum - but not to a fault. In some ways the secondary characters serve as cyphers to allow us to experience the situation by proxy. The relationship between the sheriff, Eben, and his estranged wife, Stella, serves to humanize their characters just enough to make us sympathize with their situation and fear for their safety. If the film had opted to follow the politics and overall plans of the vampires, it would have lost the layers of tension developed by staying so close to the plight of the Barrow residents. The vampires are left ambiguous and undefined. Nothing is known of them or their plans. They are simply feral beasts here to feast on whatever draws breath in the town of Barrow. This ambiguity leaves room for interpretation for the vampires designs and origins. In many ways this adds to the uncanny quality surrounding the vampires. Had their designs and plans been laid out in detail – they would have been humanized and subjected to our scrutiny. As it is we can only guess at their broader schemes – and fear the course of action they currently follow.

In short, I strongly disagree with the AV Club review. 30 Days of Night made all the right choices and delivers the foreboding atmosphere that a fearfilm needs to be effective. Highly recommended to fans of horror films.

Streebo said...

Thank you for posting a link to my review, Geoff. I always relish the opportunity to learn from everyone here.

Madd_Hadder said...

As someone who works at a theater that is playing the movie, I have to say that a good amount of people are coming out enjoying it but complaining that too much time was spent with the humans and not enough on the actual vampires. Personally, I loved every minute of the movie. I enjoyed that the Vampires remained kind of mysterious and I was glad to get some human characters to feel for and want to live. Even when the movie nearly derailed itself with a lame child vamp, they dealt with that in a glorious way!

hcduvall said...

I'm going to agree with Streebo (though maybe not as a 9 out of 10), the makers made the right choice by going with the humans. Streebo calls out a pretty compelling storytelling reason for not hanging out with the monsters. Myself, while I think the two leads (the exes) were the weakest of Barrow citizen plots, the victims provide the opportunity for watching reactions to horror and sympathy from the audience, and that's just more interesting than vampires posturing in likely ridiculous fashion. It was similar to a zombie (slow-style) movie, in that the situation became a slow siege rather than a shoot-out. So even though it wandered up and down the smarter/dumber than the audience ladder a bit (between exploring a few things horror movies don't touch as often and explaining plot points in exposition), and that roughed up some scenes and transitions, it was petty crowd-pleasing. Criminally weak sound effect choices though.

Also, it could be that I took to the movie because I don't think much of the graphic novel.

Dr. K said...

I wrote a review of 30 Days of Night for my local paper, and my response was similar to Streebo's, though not as overwhelmingly positive. I'm also in agreement with hcduvall--I think my enjoyment of the movie was inversely proportional to my disappointment with the graphic novel.

In my review, I did comment on the absence of the vampire politics subplot, but I didn't think of it as necessarily a weakness. In fact, like Streebo, I like that the vampires' nature and origins are kept mysterious, though I also found some of the human character development tedious.

However, that vampire subplot is instrumental in setting up the graphic novel's sequels, and I'm wondering where the films will go if this one happens to generate sequels as well (I imagine 30 Days could become a successful straight-to-DVD series).

Matthew J. Brady said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I've read the book (a few years ago), and it seems like one of the problems I had with the book survived the transition intact: the time jump to the end of the story (my favorite film critic, Vern, mentions it in his review). We see the vampires show up on the first or second day of darkness, then we jump to the 29th day, skipping over the whole siege of the town. There could have been a lot of interesting stuff there, but it ended up going straight to a final showdown without any middle. Sure, it keeps the story lean and simple, but it seems like a missed opportunity to examine what the vampires were doing during that whole time or how the people were holding up while they were hiding and trying not to be discovered.

But I haven't seen it myself (maybe I'll catch it when it comes out on DVD), so maybe my opinion of the film will be different.

Streebo said...

I probably tend to go overboard in praise of some horror films. The reason for this is that the horror fan community seems to be the anti-matter opposite of the comic fanboy community. Where it seems to me that comic fanboys seem to praise every Major Event book that comes out of Marvel and DC - conversely - horror fans deride every single horror film that is released. I have taken it upon myself to be an island unto myself and encourage people to support the quality horror films when they hit the theaters. It's all part of my plan to win friends and influence people by disagreeing with as many fan communities as possible.