Written by Old Bluffer 14th Nov 2007
30 Days of Night is an unabashedly straightforward horror, with the simple idea of a horde of vampires attacking the remote Alaskan town of Barrow, during their annual period of a month in total darkness. This rather dismal time is marked by most of the residents flying off for warmer climes, leaving only a hundred or so soon-to-be-brutally-slaughtered people left. The plane won't be back until sunlight returns either, so the remaining townies are well and truly cut off.
In order for this premise to work, a certain amount of credulity has to be accepted by the audience, in anticipation of lashings of gore, suspense and killings. So, we won't dwell on trivial things like the vampires sending out an advance party of mobile phone thieves (who burn all the phones!) so the townspeople can't call for help. As it turns out, we are more than recompensed in this transaction of disbelief, as this movie is destined to become something of a classic.
What the vampires do manage to do is enlist an outsider known simply as The Stranger. This dirty, unlikeable fellow infiltrates the town for long enough to knife all the husky dogs (what a b******!), which are the only means of escape. He also performs other sabotage before getting thrown in jail by the Sheriff, Eben Oleson.
Once he's behind bars though, he doesn't seem in any way dismayed. His ominous mutterings about everyone in the town being dead make everyone uneasy, especially Eben's gimpy, wargaming, younger brother Jake.
"That cold ain't the weather, that's death approaching."
It doesn't take much more of this to crack this nervous teenager, who expresses his anger by hurling a plastic gaming piece at the prisoner. "Thanks for the plastique" sneers the Stranger, "I'll bend this and use it to pick the lock!"
This freaks out the teen, and he rushes like an idiot to retrieve his meeple, allowing the Stranger to grab him through the bars and begin to choke the life from him.
While he struggles for air, reflecting that all those years throwing dice aren't proving especially helpful in the real world, his older brother shows up and shoots the Stranger in the arm. Eben is in a highly agitated state, as he's been out discovering corpses and evidence of vampires, so he strides into the cell, handcuffs his captive to the bars and tries to question him, presumably finally noticing that he seems to have rather pointy teeth...
His interrogation skills prove to be worse than his marksmanship though, and soon he has to leave on another nocturnal mission of extreme peril, leaving his brother, grandma and wife on guard duty.
When he returns the room is a bloodbath, his gran has been killed and the rest of his family are missing, presumed eaten. Surprisingly though, the Stranger is still handcuffed to the bars, and is totally distraught. "They didn't take me" he says in despair, hinting at a backstory - but Eben isn't interested in any plot details, and buggers off to witness more graphic violence.
Time passes, and eventually the leader of the vampires shows up. For some reason he is called Marlow, even though the language he speaks is comprised entirely of guttural rasps with lots of high pitched screams thrown in for good measure - so it's not really a name you can imagine him using. He looks equally incongruous, resembling a strange hybrid of the Kray twins, the Pet Shop Boys and Morrissey. Despite the silly name and 50s gangster / 80s popstar stylings though, Marlow is a wonderfully inhuman foe, and he isn't about to reward the Stranger in the way that was presumably promised. Indeed, after some sinister facial stroking, Marlow rips into his throat with relish (enthusiasm, not a condiment).
Marlow's alter-ego as a whiney vegetarian popstar is the perfect cover for a Vampire Leader.
So who was The Stranger and why did he have nasty teeth?
One of the good points about 30 Days of Night is that it doesn't bother with much detail at all, so we mostly have to guess about the wider story. It's fairly likely though that The Stranger was infected by Marlow with the tiniest amount of vampire taint, with the promise of eternal life as a super-powerful being if he did what was asked of him. As a plot device he was rather superfluous - the vampires in this film are numerous and deadly enough that they could have easily have cut the town off themselves during their initial onslaught. No, the Stranger's purpose in the film is purely dramatic - he sets a mood of foreboding and creepiness before all manner of hell breaks loose.
His death isn't particularly inspired either (hence my low rating), but don't worry, there are some great ones coming up...