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30 Days of Night: Dark Days(2010)
Nearly a year has passed since the population of Barrow, Alaska was decimated by a vicious clan of vampires during its annual 30 days of night. Terrorized by nightmares and haunted by her husband's murder, Stella has been trying desperately to expose the vampire threat to the world. When she's unexpectedly recruited by three other vampire attack victims, Stella sets out to reap vengeance upon Lillith, the vampire queen responsible for the Alaskan bloodbath. Now, these vampire hunters must venture into L.A.'s dark and dangerous underbelly to try and stop the savage evil that is preparing to strike once again.
For more about 30 Days of Night: Dark Days and the 30 Days of Night: Dark Days Blu-ray release, see 30 Days of Night: Dark Days Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 1, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kiele Sanchez, Mia Kirshner, Diora Baird, Harold Perrineau, Monique Ganderton, Rhys Coiro
Director: Ben Ketai
» See full cast & crew
30 Days of Night: Dark Days Blu-ray Review
'Bland Days' is more like it.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 1, 2010
You don't hunt them. They hunt you.
Imagine a movie made up of nothing but tired and predictable genre elements, complete with talk-along dialogue, generic action scenes, flat characters, mediocre special effects, and a climax so dull that getting up to go to the bathroom proves a far more interesting experience. That's pretty much what this clunker of a sequel to the impressive 30 Days of Night has to offer. It's a pointless exercise in unnecessary filmmaking that does little to advance the story or supplement the original picture in any meaningful way. Sure, it builds its plot in the aftermath of the deadly vampire-human encounter in Barrow, Alaska and brings back the same lead character and sole survivor of the massacre (albeit here played by a new actress), but everything about this movie just screams "cheap," and there certainly wasn't much effort put into the script. The basic premise is so unoriginal that it more than likely took literally no effort to conceive, and the filmmakers didn't even bother to flesh it out, instead choosing to populate their picture with one "been there, done that" element after another, the end result a movie with no life, no purpose, and no chance to not just come close to duplicating the magic of the original, but to exist as anything but a rapidly-fading blip on the direct-to-video radar screen.
Stella Oleson (Kiele Sanchez) is the sole survivor of the horrors that saw the small and, for 30 straight days, sunless town of Barrow, Alaska turn into a feeding ground for vampires. Stella's efforts to expose the truth are falling on deaf ears; the government has covered up what really happened in the sleepy Alaska town, and her book and various presentations are met with derision and laughter. Just when it seems all hope is lost of brining attention to the facts behind the tragedy, Stella's approached by three vampire hunters -- Amber (Diora Baird), Todd (Harold Perrineau), and Paul (Rhys Coiro) -- all of whom have suffered personal losses at the fangs of the bloodsuckers. They want Stella's help to clear out a nest and destroy the vampire's leader -- a ruthless and cunning vampire known as Lilith (Mia Kirshner) -- believing that her death will send the vamps into a state of internal disarray and end their deadly attacks on innocent humans. Stella's reluctant to help -- particularly when she learns that a tame vampire named Dane (Ben Cotton) is heading up the group -- but when she's informed that Lilith was responsible for the slaughter in Barrow, Stella locks and loads and heads into the heart of Los Angeles' vampire country to slay the leader and find the closure she so desperately needs.
30 Days of Night got it right. Not only was the picture built around a unique setting and a highly original concept, it was very well-made, evidenced by its strong acting, great special effects, and unflinching and extreme violence supported by exemplary special effects. Vampires were painted as sinister, deadly, and unforgivingly violent; the film was bloody, ugly, horrific, and plenty of fun, getting about as far away from today's Vampires-as-cutesy heartthrobs sensation as it possibly could. Suddenly, Vampires were back with a vengeance; they were once again creatures to be feared rather than drooled over. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days keeps that theme, but builds a movie that's not slick and scary but rather monotonous and laughable. In all fairness, Dark Days is about what anyone should reasonably expect out of a direct-to-video sequel; reduced production values, lesser acting, and a subpar story -- granted one taken from a graphic novel penned by series Creator Steve Niles -- shouldn't come as a surprise, but Director Ben Ketai's picture more often than not feels like a chore to watch. It's far too slow and unoriginal even for DTV fare; the picture never finds a rhythm, instead playing out a series of choppy segments rather than a cohesive whole. 30 Days of Night was good enough to command a sequel, but everything that made the first so great is lacking here. Dark Days is about as cheap and inconsequential a follow-up as there ever was; while the movie isn't a total loss -- the violence is bloody and the vampires still appear sinister -- it's far from even remotely recapturing the magic of the original.
DTV label aside, one can't help but to have had high hopes for the 30 Days of Night sequel. Unfortunately, those expectations come crashing down not too long after the picture begins. The shoddy production values and borderline lousy acting permeate the entire experience; both seem borrowed from the DTV warehouse that stores the kind of generically dark and grimy sets and faux-serious-but-really-laughable acting these sorts of movies command. As to the former, well, they don't look too bad; it's just that Dark Days is wound so tightly around the need to dumb everything down that even the dank and dark corridors that harbor within their shadows thirsty bloodsuckers or spacious warehouse locales with blocked-out windows that make for the perfect vampire breeding and feeding ground all fail to elicit much of a response, merely fading into the oblivion that devours the film thanks to every other low-rent element. The acting is pretty much only on this side of atrocious; the actors can hold their heads high because it's hard to blame them when their script has them spouting off one quote from the Horror Scriptwriting for Dummies 101 guidebook after another; who can blame them when this is all they have to work with? I never wanted a war. I just wanted people to know what happened here. Yup, this is the sort of movie with dialogue that sounds ominous and serious but comes off as just another string of phrases that might sound good in a vacuum but jumbled together and listlessly delivered instead play as borderline ridiculous. As a result, the characters are completely dimensionless, appearing as automatons that wander around the screen, waiting for their next chance to shoot something or spout another worthless line of dialogue. Even the main villain looks bored throughout the film. The production values don't fare much better. What passes for blood in one scene is clearly fruit juice, and it's easy to spot other cost-cutting corners that stand out like a sore thumb, like a whiskey bottle that's been plastered with a phony and cheap-looking "Jack's" label. Watch for an action scene that obviously took cues from Aliens, not to mention a suffering and suspended human who pleads with the characters: "kill...me..." and a shot near the end of the movie that looks like it was copied and pasted right out of the end of The Descent.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days Blu-ray, Video Quality
30 Days of Night: Dark Days' roots as a mid-budget DTV picture are evident throughout Sony's passable 1080p, 1.85:1-framed Blu-ray transfer. The image never escapes the HD video appearance; it delivers stable detailing that occasionally spikes to eye-catching levels but that never quite reaches the same level of excellence that might be found in a properly transfered-to-Blu-ray image sourced from a pristine 35mm film print. Clarity is consistent even if the image takes on a consistently flat and visually unattractive texture. Colors favor a more bland palette, with the image relying on muted colors that push towards a cold and gray tone in some places and a brown, earthen appearance in others; flesh tones reflect these color choices. Forget about reveling in eye-catching shades in this one, but that's by design and Sony's Blu-ray reproduces Dark Days' specific color spectrum very well. Black levels never look unnaturally bright, but in some spots they appear a touch too mushy and sometimes devour foreground details. Light banding is occasionally visible, but noise is practically a non-issue. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days looks fine for what it is, but a pristine and top-tier transfer it simply is not.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days Blu-ray, Audio Quality
30 Days of Night: Dark Days rips into Blu-ray with a strong but not quite perfect DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Several elements in the mix play harshly and with a distinct crunch to them, but such an industrial and nerve-rattling tenor seems deliberate to heighten the picture's sense of dread and despair, not to mention accentuate the picture's dark and grungy locales. Otherwise, the track enjoys a nicely spacious posture; it feels big and is accentuated by a fair amount of bass that's usually tight and precise but occasionally a bit on the sloppy side; then again, it seems in-line with the picture's intended sound. Subtle atmospherics -- such as dripping water in an old, dank, and dark corridor -- is nicely reproduced. Gunshots rip through the soundstage with authority and a palpable strength about them, while various human and vampire screams and screeches are delivered at just the right volume and pitch for that spine-tingling sensation. Sony's DTS track is a fine one; it's too bad it's not in support of a better movie.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
30 Days of Night: Dark Days scares up a few extras for its Blu-ray release. First is an audio commentary track with Co-Writer/Director Ben Ketai and Producer J.R. Young. The duo discusses a broad range of topics that are of the sort that usually find their way into everyday commentary tracks. The speak on the elements that carried over from the first film, creative design choices, casting, shot construction, filmmaking techniques, and other technical and thematic tidbits. It's a good commentary that fans might enjoy. Graphic Inspirations: Comic to Film (1080p) allows users to scroll through several images from the 30 Days of Night: Dark Days graphic novel. Better still, pressing "enter" yields some behind-the-scenes featurettes that run several minutes in length and focus on fleshing out some of the ideas behind the movie and how they connect to the graphic novel. Next is The Gritty Realism of 'Dark Days' (1080p, 10:07), a brief piece that features cast and crew discussing the picture's plot, adapting the graphic novel to the screen, the depiction of vampires in the film, the picture's gore elements, and shooting the action sequences. Rounding out the extras is BD-Live functionality and 1080p trailers for Red Hill, Game of Death, Faster, The Experiment, Harry Brown, Takers, 30 Days of Night, "Breaking Bad," and Fearnet.com. Disc two of this set contains a DVD copy of the film, but no digital copies are included.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What a letdown. Let this be a lesson that even the best movies are more likely than not to spawn a terrible sequel when taking the DTV route. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days fails to capture the intensity of the original. This sequel just screams "pointless" with every frame. Not only is the story generically bland, but the picture features merely average set design, poor production values, an awful script, unremarkable acting, and dull action scenes. The saving grace is the good-looking vampire make-up and several strong gore effects, including a head that's turned into hamburger as the result of repeated blows by a character wielding a cinder block. Nevertheless, one or two positives hardly make the movie worth the time and money; better to re-watch the first than suffer through the second. Sony's Blu-ray release of 30 Days of Night: Dark Days features steady but unremarkable technical specifications and a few extras. Skip it.
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