The original 30 Days Of Night (2007) was an intriguing spin on vampire films, taking many cues from the survival horror of a zombie apocalypse coupled with fearfully animalistic vampires, all black-irised, sharp teethed predators. As an added bonus, Josh Hartnett was surprisingly not shit as sheriff Ebon Oleson, and Melissa George as his wife and fellow sheriff Stella got to kick more than the average amount of arse whilst not looking stupidly glamorous. Naturally the sequel doesn’t feature any of these positives and is a poor follow-up. Quelle surprise.
Set a year after the events of the first film, in which the inhabitants of Barrow, Alaska are trapped and then gradually slaughtered by a group of vampires during a month-long period of night, sole survivor Stella Oleson (played by Kiele Sanchez because Melissa George was smart enough to avoid this travesty) is still plagued with nightmares about her ordeal and the loss of Ebon. The government has covered up the deaths under the guise of a tragic fire, so Stella travels around the country giving talks about what really happened but of course no one is willing to believe that bloodsucking fiends could be responsible. Even when she fries two vampires in her LA audience with industrial-strength UV lamps, a corrupt FBI agent spins the whole thing as a hoax. Enter Paul (Rhys Coiro), Todd (Harold Perrineau) and Amber (Diora Baird), a trio of vampire hunters in contact with Stella’s mysterious informant
Angel Dane, the vampire with a soul. They’re on the hunt for the vampire queen Lilith (Mia Kirshner), and Dane thinks that Stella can help. Cliched bollocks ensues.
For what turned out to be a
straight-to-video (showing my age there) straight-to-DVD release, Dark Days initially shows a lot of promise. The opening of the film evokes the tone of the original and Stella’s UV trap is nicely done. The low budget only becomes apparent during the action set-pieces, but it’s when the Scooby Gang other survivors show up that all of the faintly original stuff is brushed aside along with any semblance of character development or sensible plotting.
For a group of experienced vampire hunters the gang are comically inept, failing to to cover their rear or bring enough ammunition, leading to a member getting bitten on their first incursion into LA’s sewers. Vampirism in this world comes on fast, another trope borrowed from zombie films, so we have the group sobbing over having to put the bitten guy (whoops spoiler – oh well, it’s the black guy who gets it) out of his misery and so Stella gets to beat his head in with a breeze block. It’s a shockingly brutal method of dispatch and would have been so much more effective if Stella had done it without prompting – certainly we could have done without Paul geting angst-ridden about having to do the deed like in every damn zombie film/book ever. After Todd’s dead, the group’s master plan involves locking themselves in a room and waiting until nightfall so the vampires go and feed elsewhere. It works but damn if that wasn’t the dumbest plan I’d ever heard for escaping vampires.
In between hunts, Paul and Stella talk about his dead daughter and estranged wife to justify him sexing up Stella later on but sadly it doesn’t actually make him any more interesting. Todd is of course dead at this point and a chance to let Amber feel some guilt over getting him killed fails to materialise. Angel Dane gets a brief bio when he meets Stella and that’s his lot before getting shot through the spyhole in his door, which is not so much foreshadowed as neon light signposted about an hour before it happens.
In short, the premise of a month-long night and properly scary vampires were the first film’s main strengths and Dark Days doesn’t capitalise on them in the slightest. The vampires in this film come across as cannon fodder and LA really isn’t the same as Alaska, especially when the director insists on filming scenes during the day. The paper-thin characterisation and shit plot are just the icing on the cake.
I’m not quite sure what is more aggravating. The fact that Steve Niles co-wrote the screenplay based on his comic and so should have known better, or that other reviews on the internet have suggested that this film has redeeming qualities. It really doesn’t and there is the possibility of another film judging from the ending and the fact that there are more comics out there. Here’s hoping we get something more akin to the original that isn’t a complete retread. I wish.