The spare comic 30 Days Of Night remains notable mainly for Steve Niles' ingenious premise of vampires feasting in the permanent midnight of northernmost Alaska, and for the graphic intensity of Ben Templesmith's drawings, which risk incoherence in the service of creepy impressionism. Director David Slade, who cut his teeth on music videos before making his feature debut with the two-person psychodrama Hard Candy, takes the film adaptation halfway home by getting the look exactly right. The charcoal grays and blacks of Templesmith's illustrations are achieved through eerie desaturation, fitting for a town that has much of its color drained from the neck. However, the film runs into problems when trying to expand a concise, gut-punch of a story into an ungainly two-hour narrative, bogged down by perfunctory elements that take the edge off the material.
Located well north of the Arctic Circle, Barrow, Alaska is an isolated outpost of humanity that falls into total darkness for two months in the winter, a period that's here reduced to 30 days. For vampires, of course, the place is a blood-sucking paradise, because they're inured to the bitter cold (being dead has its privileges) and they don't have to worry about natural light turning them into dust. Bland as ever, Josh Hartnett stars as the town's low-key but resourceful sheriff, who teams up with ex-wife Melissa George and a handful of survivors to survive the 30-day siege and vanquish the overwhelming vampire force.
Working from the 28 Days Later model, 30 Days Of Night presents vampires that are faster, stronger, and more capable than their human counterparts, who are given little recourse but to pray the sun rises before they're discovered or their food supply runs out. Led by brilliantly cast weirdo Danny Huston, these ruthless, feral creatures give the film a visceral kick, wearing fresh blood on their faces like they're hitting all-you-can-eat BBQ night at a Texas rib shack. 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? Seems like an easy decision, but 30 Days Of Night makes the wrong choice.