Title: 30 Days of Night: Dark Days
Director: Ben Ketai
Writers: Steve Niles and Ben Ketai (created by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith)
Distributed By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Starring: Kiele Sanchez, Rhys Coiro, Doira Baird, and Mia Kirshner
Release Date: October 5th, 2010
Halloween is just up ahead, so why don’t we throw a little blood in Movie Mondays and continue the 30 Days of Night franchise with 30 Days of Night: Dark Days.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days is a direct-to-video sequel, so it goes without saying that it’s probably not going to come close to the original, or even most theatrical films for that matter.
But rather than starting off on a predictable note, 30DoN:DD actually shows promise. It has one element that many horror sequels forget to add in. The events of the first film have a major influence on the events of the sequel. Rather than have the characters sane and acting like nothing happened, or start off with the same plot with a bunch of new characters. Stella Oleson (Kiele Sanchez) is what you’d expect from anyone whose hometown was massacred by a bunch of violent vampires. Halfway sane, on meds, and emotionally distant. The only thing that’s driving her is the urge to prove that vampires do indeed exist. As with most horror stories, nobody believes her, and the events in Barstow are covered up as a massive pipeline explosion (I suppose pipeline explosions cause decapitations and the few witnesses to forget everything). And as with most horror stories, Oleson happens to stumble upon a few misfits who do believe her. Mainly due to the fact that they too have lost loved ones from vampires and are planning to hunt the vampire matriarch, Lilith (Mia Kirshner).
Another aspect different than your run-of-the-mill horror film, is the production values. Granted, it’s obviously lower budget than its predecessor and has several flaws. Such as the one thing I absolutely hate in low-budget films – fake shooting where they add CGI gunfire and shake the camera. But the cinematography. Although the action scenes leave better execution to be desired, Ketai knows how to make the most out of lighting and set designs. The use of lighting, shadows, and steam gives it a dark grit that even bigger budget films fail to achieve. It’s amazing how great technique can make a mundane set and budget look extraordinary.
Speaking of good use with budget, praise should be given for composer Andres Boulton, who matches the film’s tone with a dark and not too soft ambient guitar and synth driven soundtrack.
Movie Rule #1144: Every safe house has an arsenal behind a wall.
However, the buck stops there. After being impressive for about the first ten minutes, the film recedes back into being the usual sub par direct-to-video sequel. This film has twice the action of 30 Days of Night, and although that sounds like a strong point, the execution fails to make it anywhere spectacular. It could be blamed on shaky cameras and not enough interesting choreography. But the culprit is the fact that it lacks the suspense and tension that the first film had. You’re not going to be sitting at the edge of your seat when the vampires come out to play, nor are you going to get your wham! bam! action moments. So the resulting scenes will occasionally turn 30DoN:DD into a bore fest that will make you wish they had instead written in some scares or character development.
In fact, the Achilles’ Heel here is what made the first film interesting. With 30DoN:DD, the characters lack the dynamic that 30DoN had. It’s true that 30DoN‘s characters were stock characters, but they were very well-written stock characters that sucked you into the story and kicked the tension factor up by a couple of notches. Here, we just get people whose loved ones were killed by vampires and are very pissed off about it. If you like horror movies with dumb people you’ve come to the right place, because these people are very, very stupid. Though nobody is quite close to being as annoying as Amber (Diora Baird). You know the character that shouts hysterically when she’s supposed to be quiet, blames everyone, and accidentally steps on something noisy that wakes up the whole neighborhood? That’s her. Vampire hunter Todd (Harold Perrineau) might’ve been an interesting character if they didn’t kill him early on (a not so surprising spoiler…). The vampires are actually given a clearer motivation, and vampire matriarch Lilith is creepy, bordering on sexy, but still creepy. However, just like the humans, the film doesn’t make a strong attempt to throw in some character development or at least let us get a better glimpse at who they are.
They say that every story needs an eye opening hook.
From a technical standpoint 30 Days of Night: Dark Days is a film directed with quality and precision. But the truth of the matter is that 30DoN:DD suffers from a weak plot, actors who are forced to recite lines rather than being able to play intelligent characters, and one stupid ending. If this film had a better script and story, it could’ve been an underrated gem that deserves to be seen. Although I suppose that can be said for most direct-to-video films.