In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Red on White, In Blu.

The story is simple enough. A clan of vampires descend on an Alaskan town during the time of year when there is no sun for 30 days. A few survivors led by the local sheriff (Josh Hartnett) try to survive the month against a wild and vicious foe.

First, some thoughts about the film. Up to this point, Sam Raimi’s production company Ghost House Pictures has a track record that is rather dubious. Boogeyman was utter dreck, The Grudge was an empty rehash and the only reason Rise: Blood Hunter was even watchable (to me at least) was because Lucy Liu is a rocket. However, Raimi and company have fully redeemed themselves with 30 Days Of Night.

I adore the look of this film. The unique style of the comic is brilliantly captured here and feral design of the vampires is picture perfect. God bless the filmmakers for playing the subject matter completely straight and going for the hard R*. The make-up effects in 30 Days Of Night are top notch, including a gruesome ‘money shot’, which took my breath away and likely will yours too. It EARNS its rating with a combo of grisly gore and dour tone.

30 Days Of Night does have some flaws. A good chunk of the action sequences aren’t shot very well. Now, this could be an attempt to recreate the muddy panelling of the comic book, but I would wager that it was director David Slade’s inexperience in this area. Let’s not forget that his debut effort Hard Candy, though absolutely stellar, WAS largely just two people in a room. Also, there is a large logic leap in the last act that was more clearly defined in the comic. However, none of my nitpicks really take away from the film as a whole.

The vampire genre has been floundering for quite a while with lacklustre entries like the aforementioned Rise and the Underworld flicks, but 30 Days Of Night is an invigorating breath of acrid air. Hopefully, Ghost House can take this momentum and run with it. Sam Raimi’s next directorial project Drag Me To Hell sounds promising, but other tepid Ghost House projects like Rise 2 and Grudge 3 suggest a trip back down Mediocrity Lane. Sam! Help me out here! There are so many more interesting projects you could be concentrating on. How about the oft-rumoured American Gothic movie? What about following up 30 with Dark Days?

Now, onto the Blu-ray release for which I had the perfect venue. My buddy Phil has constructed a home theatre paradise in his basement and every few weeks we check out a new release. For anyone who has seen the film, you recall the fantastic overhead tracking shot of the main street chaos? Here’s what it looks like projected onto a 109” screen.

There’s no doubt about it, 30 Days Of Night is absolutely gorgeous in Hi-Def.

Watching the film a second time, I was even more aware of how grim and totally humourless it is. You rarely see that in films these days – or at least North American ones. The special features on this disc are excellent and extremely informative. There is a commentary, eight featurettes and a Blu-ray exclusive comic-to-film slideshow entitled “30 Images Of Night”.

The featurettes are extremely meticulous and reminded me of the exhaustive diaries on the Lord Of The Rings discs, which is a coincidence considering because 30 was shot in New Zealand, as well. The amount of visual effects (provided my WETA) is astounding too. WETA enhanced every part of the production right down to the dirt on people’s faces. Mainly though, these featurettes just reiterate how much time and effort went into the look of the film. I also learned that Bob Tapert was the one running the show at Ghost House (at least on 30), while Sam Raimi’s role seems more that of a figurehead. Tapert appears on the commentary track with leads Josh Hartnett and Melissa George. It’s a good track with lots of tidbits. Hartnett is very articulate and affable, taking time out on several occasions to make fun of his fake beard. The really cool thing on the Blu-ray disc is the slideshow though. For those who are not familiar with the source material, here are a few samples to give you an idea of Ben Templesmith’s distinctive style.

I highly recommend picking this disc up. Not only is it a great vampire movie, it is also a solid package.

*In Canada, R is the same as the American NC-17. 18A is our equivalent for the American rating of R. It works pretty much the same and filmmakers usually make cuts to avoid the loss in box office that accompanies the harshest rating.

No comments: