30 Days of Night: Blood Trails (UK - DVD R2)
Our Scott McKenzie takes a look at the DVD release of this prequel web serial
George is a junkie, living in New Orleans and surviving by supplying information for a mysterious vampire hunter called Judith. As he sets out on his last job before he and his girlfriend leave town, his contacts start to turn up dead. He realises that the vampires are hot on his tail and something big is going to happen soon. Can he survive the vampires that are out to get him and get the details of an imminent attack to the right people before it's too late?
Blood Trails first appeared online as a set of short web episodes in the run-up to the release of 30 Days of Night. Cobbled together here as a feature, we get a cliff-hanger every three or four minutes but unfortunately it hasn't been edited at all so we still get the preview of the next episode just seconds before it begins. Without these extra clips, the whole thing probably would have been about half the length and even less desirable to potential customers. It's worth noting that the running time according to the note on the case is thirty-nine minutes but this also includes the making of. In reality, Blood Trails clocks in at about twenty-seven minutes.
What Blood Trails has going for it is the efficiency of storytelling that is required to draw the viewer into a story for just a few minutes then give them a reason to come back for more. Dialogue is limited, which is probably a good reason given the amateur-grade performances, and each episode contains some kind of action. However, this also means that some gratuitous nudity has to be thrown in early on to keep the target audience of teenage boys watching and some of the cliff-hangers are pretty silly.
There are also issues with the timing of people turning into vampires, which seems to change according to the needs of the filmmakers, and some of the contrivances to keep the action moving along will have you shaking your head. For example, the gratuitous nudity is followed up by the girl in question putting some headphones on for seemingly no other reason than allowing a vampire to kill her boyfriend without her finding out. As a reference piece for amateur filmmakers who are looking to use the internet to market their work it might be worth a watch, but I think Joe Public will quickly tire of it, no matter how quickly the whole thing is over.
Blood Trails is presented in 1.78:1 and it's clear that it was filmed with the intention of being shown on the internet. Close-up shots play a major part in the framing, partly to give the characters the focus they need in very little screen time but mostly because on the naturally smaller computer screen the backgrounds will be more surplus to requirements. As a result, the picture is generally lower in detail than most major feature releases. The handheld camera work and lighting give Blood Trails an amateur feel but those expecting a cinematic experience from a series of web clips need to re-evaluate their expectations.
The feature only comes with a Stereo audio track so this is another aspect where the audience's expectations need to be adjusted accordingly. I have no major complaints about the quality of what is on offer here. Dialogue and effects are all pitched at the right level but there's certainly nothing coming through the speakers that will blast you back into your sofa. However, one plus point is that music plays almost all the way throughout Blood Trails, which goes some way to drawing the viewer into the story.
The disc opens with a trailer for 30 Days of Night, which the DVD producers probably consider the most critical piece of content on this disc. We also get a behind the scenes featurette that was originally shown on Fear.net, as we keep being reminded. It's separated into five parts, all just a few minutes long. We get behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew, with the most interesting points coming from Steve Niles, the writer of the original graphic novel. The uninitiated will be interested to find out that some of the characters appeared in a few frames of the graphic novel. Well, maybe not that interested now that I've told you.
30 Days of Night: Blood Trails is passable while it lasts, but since its main purpose of drumming up interest in 30 Days of Night has been and gone, it's fairly superfluous now that the infinitely superior movie is readily available. This would have been worth a watch if it had appeared as a bonus feature with the movie, but on its own it's not worth forking out your cash for, no matter how cheap the disc may be.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 14th April 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Behind the Scenes Featurette
Easter Egg: No
Director: Victor Garcia
Cast: Andrew Laurich, Dani Joy Owen, Marilyn Johnson, Trip Hope
Length: 27 minutes
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