Fantastic Fest Review: ’30 Days of Night: Dark Days’

Fantastic Fest Review: ’30 Days of Night: Dark Days’

30 Days of Night: Dark Days (directed by Ben Ketai and starring Kiele Sanchez, Diora Baird and Mia Kirshner) is the sequel to 30 Days of Night, both of which are adapted from the Steve Niles’ graphic novel series of the same name.  The film centers around Stella Oleson (Kiele Sanchez) who has coped with the vampire massacre of her Alaskan hometown (far enough north that it experiences a month of darkness, which the light-sensitive vampires take advantage of) by publishing an account of the attack which claimed the lives of many of it’s citizens – including her husband, Eben.

Stella uses her book tour to draw out and publicly expose vampires to warn people of their existence (and maybe kill one or two of them in the process). During one such tour in Los Angeles, she is contacted by a small group of fellow vampire-attack survivors as well as an unusual vampire named Dane, who still retains enough of his humanity to mourn the loss of his own family, casualities of the attack which turned him.

Acting as a kind of support group, the band convince Stella to work with them as they seek retribution for their mutual losses with the primary goal of destroying the vampire Lilith (Mia Kirshner) – who apparently has control over the other nests of vampires – believing that her eradication will aid in their plan to annihilate vampires entirely.

Shifting the setting from northern Alaska to Los Angeles creates a different tone – both in color and general atmosphere.  The first film established a helpless feeling of isolation for it’s characters with it’s remote, dark and snowy location.

To evoke a similar climate of desolation, Ketai shot the film in areas that appeared to be uninhabited or overlooked – like Skid Row – and it is very effective.  Claustrophobic, dark tunnels are utilized to establish an overall feeling of tension, particularly as characters are preyed upon and picked off one-by-one.

Adding to the dangerous challenge of hunting vampires is the presence of a terminally-ill police officer (Troy Ruptash) who works as a spy for Lilith in the hopes that his betrayal of the human race will result in being turned immortal himself.  It’s generally bad news whenever this guy turns up and when Lilith baits him to prove his devotion to her, the scene is grisly and queasy-making.

In keeping with the artistic direction of the first film (which honored the beautiful, disturbing illustrations of Ben Templesmith from the graphic novel) these vampires have angular features, black eyes and a mouth full of sharp, pointed teeth.  Eschewing much of traditional vampire lore, these creatures can only just barely pass for human and are rendered with animal-like traits – which is an interesting take on well-mined territory.

Not without it’s flaws, there are some areas which lag in the film, but I really enjoyed the dark and original story – particularly given that the current generation favors vampires that sparkle.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days will be released direct to DVD and Blu-ray on October 5, 2010.