Blu-Review: 30 Days of Night: Dark Days

Directed By Ben Ketai
Starring Kiele Sanchez, Rhys Coiro, Diora Baird and Harold Perrineau


The best sequels are often those that seek to retain the spirit of the original without rehashing it, that try something new and different, tackling a new setting, a different tone or, in some cases, a new genre entirely. Then there are sequels that take the ‘What worked for Aliens…’ approach, amping up the action and throwing a squad of highly-trained, gun-toting badasses into the mix to escalate the carnage. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days falls into the latter camp, and while it’s certainly not a rehash of the first film, instead it’s content to be a dull retread of countless other direct-to-video horror films, jettisoning everything that made the first film remotely unique or interesting.

It’s almost a year since the Alaskan vampire siege of the first movie, and survivor Stella Oleson’s life has had its ups and downs. Her husband was burned to ash by the harsh light of the sun and the brutal deaths of her friends and neighbours have been covered up and explained away as a gas explosion. Her face has morphed from Melissa George’s into that of even-easier-on-the-eyes actress Kiele Sanchez, though, so there’s a silver lining to her misery. She’s in L.A. giving speeches to sceptical gigglers and gawkers, trying to convince the world that vampires exist when she’s contacted by a squad of survivors-turned-hunters out for revenge against the toothy goons who killed their loved ones. With Stella in their crew, they hope to stop head vamp Lillith before she stages another Alaskan siege and feasts on hundreds of innocents.

The first 30 Days of Night movie was flawed, but has the benefit of a killer premise (vampires laying siege to an Alaskan town where the sun won’t rise for a month), a great setting, immense amounts of visual flair and heaps of tense, inventive, gore-filled chaos on display. Dark Days trades the aforementioned virtues for mediocrity; the gorgeous, creepy Alaskan setting is replaced with generic Canada-doubling-as-L.A. locations, where warehouses are plentiful and visual style is out of the price range. While the film sets itself up as an action-horror film, said action is sparse and uninteresting, while the bland ‘hunters go into the vampire nest’ plot not only lacks the tight, claustrophobic concept of the first film, but is painfully repetitive – the hunters gear up and venture into the vamp lair about four times throughout the movie.
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The primal, animalistic ferocity of the original’s vampires is done away with – Dark Days instead opts for the boring alternative of simply having its villains hang around in boiler rooms plotting evil and bathing in blood-filled bathtubs. The human characters themselves are even more uninteresting and the film squanders a solid cast with hackneyed dialogue and hollow, morose characters. The main cast consists of a stock collection of ‘gruff hunter/marine squad’ stereotypes: there’s the dark, brooding hero (Rhys Coiro); the fast-talking one (Harold Perrineau); the antagonistic one who doesn’t take kindly to outsiders (Diora Baird) and lastly, Ellen Ripley (Kiele Sanchez).

The adherence to stereotypes wouldn’t be too bad if they weren’t such insufferable morons, too; for a squad of badass vampire hunters, it’s stupefying that they’ve survived longer than 47 seconds, since they adopt the tactical equivalent of wading into battle with a soiled dishcloth and a can-do attitude. They have U.V. lamps, but never think to take them out and use them when fighting vampires, they hunt in daylight hours, but just wander underground away from the sun, losing their advantage (one of the crew mentions how dumb this is, but everyone looks at her like she’s speaking Klingon) and go about shouting, attracting undue enemy attention, getting their asses kicked, then coming back later anyway, somehow even less prepared. It’s dumb, dull and the action isn’t interesting enough to warrant the repetitive back and forth plot padding.
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I loved Coiro as Billy Walsh in Entourage (you may also remember him as CTU Mole #356 on 24), and Sanchez was really quite great in A Perfect Getaway, but here they’re stripped of anything resembling personality and seem actively bored in their roles, unable or unwilling to try to make anything of the clichéd, slapdash dialogue thrown together for them. Diora Baird fares best, if only because her character is the least moronic in the movie – she disagrees with the crew’s retarded plans so often it’s a wonder that she’s actually with them at all. Harold Perrineau is okay, but isn’t given much to do, while Mia Kirshner fails to conjure up any menace as lead villain Lillith.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days isn’t a terrible film, it’s just a dull one, the likes of which litter straight-to-DVD aisles everywhere. There’s nothing to differentiate it from the droves of similar movies out there aside from its ties to the original and it does nothing of interest there, either. There’s a diverting, fun moment or two here and there, like Stella’s auditorium introduction, but when the best shots in the movie are those literally borrowed from the first (the overhead view of the original film’s snowy town massacre is replayed a few times here) and there’s nothing new of merit, you’re better off just watching the original again. If you’re intent on knowing what 30 Days of Night: Dark Days has to offer, then just catch a random episode of Blade: The Series on cable; same plot, locations and production values and it’ll be over in half the time.
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On the Blu-ray:

30 Days of Night: Dark Days isn’t exactly an ocular orgasm of stylish, dynamic visuals, but the Blu-ray transfer nonetheless presents the film flawlessly and is equally solid in the audio department.

As far as special features go, there’s an audio commentary with director/co-writer Ben Ketai and producer J.R. Young. Much like the film itself, it’s a bland ten-a-penny track no different than countless other mundane ‘let’s pat ourselves on the back’ filmmaker commentaries. There’s enough information therein to make it potentially interesting for fans of the film, but otherwise it’s best left unheard.

A 10 minutes feature titled ‘The Gritty Realism of ‘Dark Days” offers an equally uninteresting brief collection of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. Finally, a ‘Graphic Inspirations: Comic To Film’ feature offers a comparison between the comic and the corresponding scenes from the film with comments from Ketai. It’s the most interesting feature on the set, but unfortunately there’s nothing else on offer besides a PS3 theme and a few trailers for other Sony Pictures titles.

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30 Days of Night: Dark Days is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.
Click here if you’d like to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.

(Note: The images above were captured and saved at a reduced quality, and though they give an idea of how the film looks, they aren’t intended to reflect the true quality of the Blu-ray image itself.)