A Long 'Night' Full of Fright

Friday, October 19, 2007

" 30 Days of Night" is the kind of gruesome but entertaining survival guide you pray you never have to follow: how to stop vampires killing you during the darkest days of Alaskan winter.

Hey, it could happen. It certainly does in Barrow, Alaska, where vampires come to terrorize the isolated town, as seasonal darkness descends for a loooong month. From a safe distance -- in our own pocket of darkness, as it were -- it's a visceral kick to watch as a group of ever-dwindling survivors, led by young, resolute Sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett), figures out how to outlast these powerful predators. Until sunlight returns and reduces the nasty suckers to black confetti, it's time to lie low and plan occasional guerrilla attacks.

To survive, these guys -- are you taking notes? -- are going to need a good, sharp ax to sever the invaders' heads. (Forget about guns and bullets; they'll only annoy the vamps.) And as Eben discovers, it's vital to get a good clean cut or you'll be Alaskan sushi in seconds.

Directed by David Slade ("Hard Candy"), the action scenes are artful and terrifying; these killers move so quickly and decisively, there seems to be no hope for humanity. And while Hartnett and Melissa George (as his estranged wife) make functionally appealing characters, the real star of "30 Days" is Danny Huston. As the animalistic leader of the pack, he's as disturbing as he is compelling, a feral creature with all senses at full capacity. If there's an action figure, I'm ordering one.

-- Desson Thomson

30 Days of Night R, 108 minutes Contains scenes of terror and major gore. Area theaters. 30 Days of Night R, 108 minutes Contains scenes of terror and major gore. Area theaters.

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