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30 Days of Night

When I was younger, I totally loved vampire stories. While every other misanthropic, maladjusted "weird kid" was swooning over the sexy, seductiveness of the undead - I was wishing I could be all powerful and crush my enemies. What can I say? I was an angry kid.

This isn't just a commentary on what type of creepy asshole I am, it's actually a really interesting breakdown of the typical types of vampire stories out there:
  • The sensitive, swooning emo vamp who is just soooooo sad about their dreadfully long lives and this "terrible condition" they are suffering from;   
  • The larger than life rock star who can actually push themselves to the very limits and reeeeealy enjoys living it up every day, forever;
  • The pure evil, killing machine who cares nothing for anyone but themselves and wants nothing but to completely destroy every other living creature they come into contact with.
Translated from the pages of a graphic novel, 30 Days of Night just hit the right spot for me; it turns the romantic vampire conventions on end and fully embraces the terrifying side of the undead. As it turns out, vampires aren’t sexy, they are a superior species and have no qualms about destroying us. That's right kids, shit just got fucking real. The vampires of 30 Days of Night are not pretty. They don’t speak our language because they think we are cattle. These vamps make it clear that they aren’t looking to “turn” anyone; they are here to feed.

Characters in the movie keep saying that the people who choose to live in these places are “tough,” and we typically think that in real life as well but, clearly the people are not tough enough.

“There is no escape. No hope.”

30 Days of Night is effective on a multitude of other levels as well. The visuals are disturbingly striking, thanks mostly to a wintry setting that allows the entire movie to be set atop a white background but, it's also a feature of starting as a graphic novel - the movie can be broken into moments that are each a frame in the storyboard.

These moments are a brutal, virtual punch in the gut; it's infrequent that you see a decapitation performed with an axe that takes more than one swing. In this case, the decapitation is less important than the reaction. The camera stays on Josh’s face the entire time, we don’t need to see how horrible the attacker looks, we understand better by seeing the horror on Josh's face.

There's also our primal, inescapable, nyctophobia. Biologically, humans aren’t designed to see well in the dark. This evolutionary shortcoming makes us particularly susceptible to being scared of things that go bump in the night. In traditional horror stories, we know that everything will be okay if we can just survive until morning. Setting the movie in Alaska in the middle of winter where it will be pitch black for 30 days is simply brilliant. This cold, desolate, isolated location steeped in total darkness speaks to our inner animal brain, telling us that we're helpless rodents about to be devoured by something very, very bad. This situational horror also works for other movies like The Thing and The Shining.

The story is also really just a “stranger comes to town” tale at it's core. We are, deep down, just xenophobes hoping to be left to our own devices for all time; nothing scares us more than the idea of "the other" getting into our world, our home, or possibly even our very own bed. 

“You can feel it. That cold ain’t the weather. It’s death approaching.”

So to wrap it up: if you want vampiric devastation in the cold, dark of night - try 30 Days of Night. If you want twinkly, child vamps with bad hair and a penchant for whining - there's always Twilight

Was that too easy a shot? 

How's this: if you love the gruesome terror of 30 Days of Night, expand your horizons with Near Dark or Stake Land. If you'd rather a sweeter, more adorable vampire, check out My Best Friend is a Vampire or Once Bitten

Watch the trailer here and decide for yourself:

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