Barrow is the most northerly town in Alaska, and for a month every year the place is plunged into a long night where the sun does not rise. Sheriff of this town is Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and as the sun is about to set for this year's period of darkness, he has found that the satellite phones of the population who are staying behind for the winter have been stolen. And not only that, but he and his deputy find them in a pile having been set alight to destroy them. Soon Barrow will be beginning its long night, but just as many have moved out, there are some who will move in... unwelcome visitors.
30 Days of Night was based on a comic book, as so many of the genre movies from the nineties on were, and had a clever idea to set the ball rolling. That was that a group of vampires take an interest in the town where it's midnight for a month, because they don't need to bother with hiding from the daylight sun and can feast at their leisure. Their arrival in the film is heralded by "The Stranger" (Ben Foster) who is responsible for destroying the communications network and even kills off the huskies that could pull the citizens to safety.
So with the townsfolk stranded, with nobody outside aware of their dire predicament, you would think that the vampires had it easy. And you be right about that for the most part, up until the ending at any rate, for Eben and those survivors he collects around him are forced into cowering in their homes in areas where the bloodsuckers won't notice them. Among the people with Eben are his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) - cue plotline about adversity bringing them back together - and his younger brother Jake (Mark Rendall), someone for him to save.
The odd thing about the vampires is that they spend about half an hour on the first day wiping out the citizens, leaving the next twenty-nine to mope about whoever happens to be left. A lot steadier pacing of the vampire attacks would have made for a more suspenseful film, and director David Slade brings an unmistakably leaden touch to the proceedings, not helped by a wealth of over-earnest acting from his cast. Not that there's anything wrong with taking the horrors seriously, but a little sprightliness in the production would not have gone amiss whether during the action or otherwise.
Even that head villain, who for some reason speaks in a guttural snarl of an ancient language, therefore preventing us the pleasure of some urbanely menacing dialogue between him and the living characters, isn't much fun; as played by Danny Huston, there might as well have been an anonymous stuntman in the role. For what it's worth, 30 Days of Night didn't do much more with its killer premise than restage your average zombie movie with vampires, and the odd quirks like the fanged and violent little girl are merely window dressing. With Foster's Renfield-alike dropped after the first half, the manner in which Eben saves the, er, day doesn't put across the emotional weight necessary to tug the heartstrings. Not terrible, then, but merely average. Music by Brian Reitzell.