Pickin’ the Carcass: 30 DAYS OF NIGHT: DARK DAYS (2010)
DVD Review by Michael Arruda
30 DAYS OF NIGHT was one of my favorite horror movies from 2007, so when I heard about the sequel, I was happy. Now, I know sequels in general aren’t very good, but I figured, how bad could 30 DAYS OF NIGHT: DARK DAYS (2010) be?
Silly, silly me. It was very bad.
The movie begins where the original left off, as we see Eben Oleson dying in the arms of his wife Stella, as his vampire flesh burns into ash and floats away into the sunlight. 30 DAYS OF NIGHT: DARK DAYS continues the story of Stella, now played by Kiele Sanchez, taking over the role from Melissa George, who played her in the original.
Stella says in an opening voice-over reminiscent of Linda Hamilton in the TERMINATOR movies “I didn’t want a war,” but— you know, when the vampires just won’t go away, someone’s got to do something about it, and Stella sees herself as this person. She travels around the country giving speaking engagements, trying to convince people that vampires exist, so that the townspeople of her small Alaskan town who were all wiped out by vampires wouldn’t have died in vain. I kept thinking, however, who in their right mind would pay her to speak about the existence of vampires?
One of the best lines in the movie— come to think of it, it’s the only good line in the movie— takes place at one of these speaking engagements where Stella is trying to convince her audience that vampires are real. As she’s speaking, a guy stands up in the audience, playing the wise ass, and says, “Yep, I’m a vampire,” and the entire place breaks out in laughter.
I guess you had to be there.
Anyway, Stella is receiving messages from someone named Dane (Ben Cotton), and Dane informs her in a letter (what, no email or Facebook?) that the vampires are now in Los Angeles. Stella packs her things and heads to LA to confront the vampires. This is one of the weakest parts of the movie: the setting. One of the strengths of the original 30 DAYS OF NIGHT was that it took place in an isolated town in Alaska where the sun set for 30 days straight. It was a great gimmick, and really added to the suspense of the story. Here, the action takes place in sunny Los Angeles. It just doesn’t have the same effect. Why even call the movie 30 DAYS OF NIGHT: DARK DAYS? What dark days? They’re in LA. It’s sunny all the time!
Stella is particularly interested in this group of vampires because they are led by an evil queen vampire named Lilith (Mia Kirshner) who supposedly was responsible for the slaughter of her family and friends in Alaska, though this is news to me, since I don’t remember her at all in the original movie.
In Los Angeles, Stella meets a group of vampire hunters who have all suffered losses at the fangs—er, hands—of vampires, and like Stella, they are motivated by revenge and actively hunt down and destroy vampires. They also work for Dane, the mysterious person who’d been sending messages to Stella. They take Stella to Dane, and she discovers that he’s a vampire. Obviously, she tries to kill him, but the vampire hunters stop her because Dane is a good vampire. Yep, it seems that when he was bitten by a vampire, he only received a superficial wound and thus even though he became a vampire, he still has control of his mental faculties, which means he’s still a good guy. O—kaay. We’re starting to enter TWILIGHT territory here.
Anyway, Stella and the vampire hunters head off in pursuit of Lilith and her evil vampires, and what I found amazing about all this was how boring it all was. On paper, it doesn’t sound like that bad of a movie, but in reality, it was a disaster. The acting was blah, the script was poor, and the story put me to sleep.
I thought the dialogue was horrible. The screenplay was written by Steve Niles and Ben Ketai, who also directed. Niles wrote the screenplay for the original 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, which I find hard to believe. Not only was that one a superior movie in every way, but its story was much, much stronger, as was its dialogue. Here, the dialogue was full of clichés, and the characters were anything but memorable. The vampire hunters are all interchangeable, and nobody stands out. Dane is one of the most boring vampires around— he’d make a good friend for the TWILIGHT crew. Lilith is a weak villain, nowhere near as scary as Danny Huston’s vampire in the original, and Stella isn’t much of a heroine either.
Director Ketai, in spite of having strong source material at his fingertips, fails to create even one memorable scene in this one. The vampires do look scary running at humans, and there’s lots of shooting as our heroes are all heavily armed with big bad assault rifles, because bullets slow down vampires in this movie, but in spite of all the macho weaponry, few vampires are actually taken down. A simple crucifix and wooden stake would have been much more effective.
The acting was so-so. Kiele Sanchez looks good as Stella, but she didn’t really make me believe she was at war with the vampires. The vampire hunters were all forgettable. Rhys Coiro plays Paul who becomes a love interest for Stella, but they share absolutely no chemistry. One of the vampire hunters was played by Harold Perrineau who played Michael on the TV show LOST. Perrineau was much better on LOST.
And as Lilith, the evil queen vampire, Mia Kirshner fails to impress. She reminded me somewhat of the vampire girl in the wild and crazy vampire-space movie LIFEFORCE (1985), which if you haven’t seen you need to, just to see how wildly ambitious the film is—its story flies all over the place. Anyway, Lilith reminded me a little bit of that vampire woman, except Lilith keeps her clothes on, and the vampire woman in LIFEFORCE spends the majority of the movie walking around in the nude, and since she’s purdy good looking, it’s another reason to check out LIFEFORCE!
Unfortunately, this review is not about LIFEFORCE.
It’s about 30 DAYS OF NIGHT: DARK DAYS, an extremely weak vampire movie, and a terrible sequel to one of the best vampire movies ever, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, and that’s a shame, because the original deserved a better follow-up. It’s no surprise that this sequel went directly to DVD.
If you really need a 30 DAYS OF NIGHT fix, read the comics instead.
© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda