Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Welcome to Barrow, Alaska, where for one month every year, it remains night-time until sunrise, 30 days later. In "30 Days of Night", just as the sun begins to set for a month, a dingy icebreaker arrives bearing a crew full of pale-skinned, ill-tempered people with very bad teeth. Unfortunately for them, the local orthodontist has just flown off to spend his hard-earned cash on a sunny vacation in Florida. The strangers unsurprisingly go ballistic and turn the town upside-down.

"30 Days" is yet another movie in the survival horror genre. Only here, the survivors are hopelessly outclassed and outmatched by the visitors. Bullets don't even slow them down, so pretty soon, the town's population takes a drastic reduction with the visitors' onslaught.

In one breathtaking sequence, the camera tracks across town from a directly-overhead perspective, depicting the carnage as it takes place. Silhouetted against the snow, people get pounced on, sliced, diced and chomped on, leaving a brilliant crimson splatter on pristine white. Occasionally, we see flashes of gunshots, but we know it's a foregone conclusion. The view reminds me of an RTS simulation where things have gone badly wrong for your side. >Game over!<

For the handful of survivors to stay alive, there is no confronting the enemy. They stay quiet and hidden, doing nothing to attract any unwanted attention to themselves. That's a little difficult when among the survivors are a cantankerous Alzheimer's sufferer who needs his walkies, and a paranoid "I can't just sit here and die" nervous wreck.

To last 30 days in a frost enshrouded wreck of a town surrounded by a boatload of bloodthirsty predators, supplies are going to be a problem, and I don't remember there being much discussion on how the toilet facilities were going to work. Sneaking around, trying to stay quiet, hiding, all make for tense storytelling. Doors that don't lock very well, windows that expose too much, walls made of flimsy wood instead of reassuring concrete, the survivors' hiding spaces provide very little sense of security, and we feel it too.

Was it the scare-fest that I was expecting? Well, there were shocks a-plenty; some gory, disquieting scenes; and the atmosphere was taut throughout. Not a bad mix for a thriller, but I doubt that it will make a lasting impression on me. My mind's already too far scarred for that.

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