Fantastic Fest ’10 – 30 Days of Night: Dark Days Review



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Not even a few pandering scenes of ultra-violence can save this direct-to-DVD sequel

I really wanted to enjoy 30 Days of Night: Dark Days. I also wanted to be athletic and not have hair that is thinning. Dreams are made for nothing if not being shattered.

I was a fan of the first film and really enjoyed the original comic book mini-series. I’m also not one of those people that instantly think the worst when a movie is announced as being direct-to-DVD. Plenty of quality films have been saddled with limited to no theatrical release. The sequel to David Slade’s 2007 Alaskan vampire movie is not one of those films, unfortunately.

Dark Days is pretty dang awful — from the top of its head to its pointy little feet. There is little to like about Dark Days — but just enough to hate to make you forget about those few shining lights of uniqueness that struggle to grow out of the film like puss being squeezed from a zit.

Ben Ketai, a man who has done a fair share of work with Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Productions, takes the directing reigns for Dark Days. He also co-wrote the screenplay with series creator Steve Niles. So now 30 Days of Night fans know who to write their angry letters to when they watch the steaming pile of bat guano that is this misfire of a movie. Making a film is a group effort, though. So don’t be too harsh on Ketai. A gentle shaking of the head and a tisking noise is plenty.

The sequel picks up pretty much directly from the final moments of the original — even going as far as to include a few modified clips from the original film. Modified you say? That has to do with the fact that Kiele Sanchez takes over the role of Stella, the widowed Alaskan survivor from the Barrow massacre, from Melissa George. Sanchez doesn’t do a terrible job inheriting the character. Unfortunately, this is mostly due to the fact that there wasn’t much of a character to begin with.

Despite my appreciation for 30 Days of Night, I will quickly point out that the film’s biggest weakness was its poorly developed characters. Without original film director David Slade’s snazzy visual style, the stark nakedness of the characters is depressingly evident. And I’m not even talking about the good kind of nakedness.

Dark Days plods along the plot the comic book mini-series its based on relatively faithfully — unfortunately Steve Niles story, without the art of Ben Templesmith to back it up, is a grand disappointment. Sound familiar?

After losing her husband and half of her hometown to a vampire-induced massacre, Stella has taken to the road to promote her tell-all book — promising to reveal the long-hidden truth about the world’s hidden supply of nosferatu.

The vampires don’t take to kindly to having their dirty laundry exposed, though, so they put out a hit on the woman. Thankfully, though, she’s rescued and brought into the fold by a group of vampire-hunting vigilantes. A group of rag-tag do-gooders, this team is led by a half-vampire with a conscious. Diora Baird, Rhys Corio and Harold Perrineau make up the humans with Ben Cotton playing their turncoat vampire benefactor. The vampire hunter characters are woefully half-baked. Their backstories are like well-painted rotten wood. Beneath the fine coats of color, there is still a crappy exterior lurking beneath. An overabundance of hand-wringing moroseness substitutes for quality writing. Perrineau, for example, is there to lend his relatively famous name to the film and little else. It’s telling of a film when its most well known actor is probably the least-favorite face from Lost.

Overbearing industrial rock makes up the film’s soundtrack — literally hitting audiences over the head with its self-importance and pandering to the same crowd who are all to happy to make a Twilight parody movie a commercial success.

Dark Days is exactly the type of movie today’s generation of kids deserve. It’s loud, it’s stupid and it’s just violent enough to catch the notice of gorehounds and genre enthusiasts.

There are some pretty brutal scenes in Dark Days — their violence, though, stands out in sharp contrast to the rest of the film’s tameness. Scenes in which heads are crushed with cinder blocks or throats ripped out with bare teeth just serve to show just how desperate and silly a movie Dark Days really is.

I would like to remain a supporter of not judging a direct-to-DVD film by its cover. As long as films such as Dark Days continue to get released, though, I will have no choice but to continue to mock the money hungry studios that release low budget follow-ups to cult films by the truckload.

Director: Ben Ketai
Notable Cast: Kiele Sanchez, Diora Baird, Mia Kirshner, Harold Perrineau, Ghys Coiro, Ben Cotton
Writers: Ben Ketai and Steve Niles

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