Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster
Extras: Commentary Track, Photo Gallery, Featurettes
We've certainly in the last few years seen quite a few comic book and graphic novel interpretations hit the big screen, some quite successful and some others not quite so. "30 Days Of Night" is the latest film version of a series of comics written by Steve Niles, who also collaborated with the screen writers, which is always a good thing. I always admire when an artist goes the extra mile after selling one of their projects to Hollywood.
Directed by David Slade, who also brought us "Hard Candy" starring Ellen Page in 2005, he also created some of those disturbing music videos by Aphex Twin where they use some of the same face morphing techniques you'll see in the film. For the record, I always love films like this where we feel trapped by the elements and at the same time have to figure out ways to survive unimaginable horrors, when done right, like in John Carpenter's "The Thing", or "The Shining" or even the made for television Stephen King penned horror thriller "Storm Of The Century", I never fail to get involved in the story and the close knit band of survivors.
The film opens in showing us the harsh winter landscape of Barrow, Alaska which every year is brought under thirty days of darkness because of it's location on the map, and the townsfolk who don't want to endure flee for brighter locations rather than wait it out. But something is different this year, and the people who decide to leave don't realize they are making a very wise decision, especially when a man only known as 'The Stranger' (Ben Foster) shows up with the most evil intentions imaginable, and I mean evil, especially if you like dogs. After killing several dogs and disabling the cell phones he sets about disabling the only helicopter in town. Played with menace and showing us once again (as in "3:10 To Yuma" and the excellent "Six Feet Under" HBO series) the demented range of his acting abilities. Ben Foster is a joy to watch, and his performance is quite effective and genuinely creepy.
After being subdued and captured, it's up to Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) to solve some of the despicable crimes that have all of a sudden plagued the town, especially after finding the telecommunications operator's head stuck on a pole. Also assisting him is his estranged wife, who missed the last plane out of town, frustrating both of them since they were recently separated. The Stranger taunts them from his jail cell and threatens certain death, which arrives as a small army of brutal vampires led by a creature named Marlow (Danny Huston) that begin attacking the townsfolk, including Oleson's mother. Now it's personal. Those that survive this vicious attack gather together in a boarded up house and plan together for survival, these creatures aren't just stupid zombies, they have intellect, and survival is a dangerous game of cat and mouse played out in a dark, cold and unforgiving landscape.
While "30 Days of Night" may not be the most frightening film ever to grace the screen, or entirely original, it is actually very entertaining and if you are a fan of horror then don't miss it. It is stylishly directed and has some pretty suspenseful action sequences and the performances are actually quite good. And the special effects are quite effective as well, if you like horror films with lots of blood, this film is for you. It was a lot of fun as long as you don't stop and think it out to much and just let the carnage take over.
As for the picture quality, prepare yourself to be impressed, because this film looks outstanding in 1080p, it is framed at 2.40:1 and is quite simply an excellent looking disc. As you can tell by the title, this film has quite a few dark scenes, and the black levels are dead on, not once do we lose any detail, and it is impressive to watch how the director actually uses darkness to tell the story, setting up several scenarios where the lack of light is a key element to the savagery going on. The snow is very crisp looking and when someone walks into the distance you can clearly see their footprints, not to mention the constant snow blowing across the screen. The level of detail is extremely sharp, and yet I didn't notice any major examples of edge enhancement. If you are looking for an excellent demo disc to show off what your system is capable of, then I suggest throwing this in. It's all in the subtle details and high definition is certainly the only way to go to experience such a film in all of its glory. It's a very nice looking film that uses all sorts of digital effects and certainly reminiscent of "300" or "Sin City" in the overall perfection of its style and atmosphere. An excellent transfer that will certainly prove what your system can and can't do when it comes to black levels.
The sound is just as satisfying, although it gets pretty loud very fast during a couple of action scenes, you may want to have the remote handy. The sounds of the vicious winter are constantly in the surround channels, always reminding us of the brutal weather our characters are facing. This is one of those films where the surrounds truly benefit the picture, and they are constantly active, and when the vampires attack, prepare for some very aggressive slashing and hacking of limbs, not to mention all of the explosions and gunfire (the only real way to kill one of these suckers is with a headshot, but you already knew that, right?). The sound was so well done that you notice things like a shutter slamming repetitively against a house or the sounds of an approaching vampire's feet in the snow. Brilliant clarity. The score by Brian Reitzell also sounds very moody and effective, but more importantly the action and sound effects never deter from the dialogue. This is a great sounding disc, but be careful, like I said it gets very loud without warning, and that can be annoying, not to mention dangerous to some home theater set ups.
The special features are presented in 1080i and look very crisp as they are filmed with high def cameras. We have a series of eight featurettes that are the real meat of the offering, and you have the option to play them all, combined they run 50 minutes and 19 seconds and they are the types of features that really get into the process of filmmaking, you can tell that these filmmakers really set out to create a stylish film that captures the essence of the comics themselves and it is fascinating to watch them work together to achieve this. The featurettes are also available to view separately and they are titled 'Pre-production,' Building Barrow,' 'The Look,' 'Blood, Guts,' '#@$&',Stunts,' 'The Vampire,' 'Night Shoots,' and 'Casting'. As you can see, it covers everything and then some. If you are a fan of special features, these are top of the line.
'30 Images Of Night' is a Blu-ray exclusive feature that shows you the artwork from the original comics and the scenes that attempt to depict the artworks, it is really very cool to be able to have access to some of the original artwork for reference sake.
We also have a commentary from Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and producer Rob Tapert that isn't very enlightening after you have watched the featurettes. I would rather have heard the director and Ben Foster.
We also have five high def trailers and I can't wait to see "Walk Hard", it truly looks like a brilliant comedy. It also looks great in high definition. Actually high definition movie trailers are my favorite special features on this disc and most others really.
While many may find this film overly derivative I found it to be a well balanced and effective horror thriller, like I said I just love films that make us feel isolated and while "The Thing" does it better, I can easily recommend this film to watch during a snow storm with the fireplace on and the lights off, it's also one of the more impressive looking and sounding discs I've recently viewed.