30 Days of Night: Dark Days (UK - BD)
Marcus only went into this vampire sequel because Diora Baird did too
After the events in Barrow, Alaska ten months ago, lone survivor Stella Oleson (no longer played my Melissa George, but by Kiele Sanchez of Nikki and Paulo fame) is trying to reveal the secrets of the vampires to the world. With her lectures met with laughing crowds and with no one believing her story, Stella is on the brink of suicide and is lost as to what to do next.
That is until a group of Vampire hunters (including other Lost veteran Harold Perrineau) approaches her and let her in on their collected intelligence of how Lileth (Mia Kirshner) is the leader of the vampires and leads them to these small darkened communities to feed. With a new mission to stop Lileth, Stella finds herself with a reason to live, even if it’s only to prevent another slaughter happening.
Judging by friends' reactions to the original 30 Days of Night, it feels a little like I’m in the minority when I say I wasn’t a huge fan. I’m not denying it had a solid visual style and that I much appreciated the all-out nasty vampires as opposed to the current state of emo vampire clogging up DVD shelves, but I thought the premise of a town cloaked in darkness for a prolonged period of time wasn’t used effectively enough for a vampire yarn and the over stylised vamp look just wasn’t up my street.
So when a sequel was announced I was indifferent. If I'd never seen it in my life, I wouldn't have cared. That was until I saw Miss Diora Baird was cast. Then it became a whole different story because Diora’s cool, I'll watch her in anything and when she gets a good bit of screen time, she’s pretty great (though she's usually reduced to bit parts in comedies—oh she’s also pretty great to look at too). So going into the sequel on countdown to Diora’s death (it was always going to happen) I found Dark Days to be a pretty serviceable sequel. Even though it felt like a pilot to a TV show I’d probably watch two or three episodes of and then bail out of, the production values felt pretty high and even if it wasn’t as visually pleasing as the first movie it was doing the best with what it had.
Sanchez is an okay replacement for George, with the character hardened up after her ordeals in the first movie, and strangely the story seems to have her treated a lot like Ripley in Aliens. Hell, director Ben Ketai even opts for a lot of Alien/Aliens inspired scenes. Stella’s recruitment into the frankly inept vampire hunting team is a lot like Burke and Gorman trying to sign Ripley up to take a trip with them and the closing scenes with Lileth may as well have been a shot for shot wannabe remake of Alien, with the flashing yellow emergency lights and Stella pinned against a wall as she peers around the corner looking for the alien, sorry scratch that, vampire.
Dark Days serves as a passable sequel to the 2007 original (for me, a non-believer in the blossoming franchise anyways). It offers up enough insight into why stuff happened in the original to ensure a direct-to-video prequel isn’t needed in the near future, and as is the done thing with DTV sequels it presents a whole new range of ideas that were never even hinted at in the original, all of which worked. I actually really enjoyed the whole normal guy so desperate to be a vampire he tore a chick’s neck open and starts having a drink (ps. the chick in question was actually Ginger Snaps star Katherine Isabel—what happened to her career?) and the vampire regeneration idea isn’t a bad one either offering up the next sequel's foundations long before the we get to cliff-hanger ending.
Like I said this isn’t the visual delight the original movie offered up, but it does its best. Gone is the pitch black night backdrop, here we have a hazy L.A with its yellow street-lit nights and glowing night skies. The image is beautifully clean of grain and has a TV show-esq sharpness to it and honestly has quite a bit going for it.
Skin tones are all but perfect. Some of the close ups on Sanchez’s face look incredibly natural with good skin texture presentation and a nice bit of lighting to give it that movie flare. Outside of that, everything looks pretty sharp with some pretty decent black levels and scenes even holding up in the darker moments (though it has to be said the lighter areas do tend to stick to one colour so there’s not a lot to show off).
Detail is a little lacking unless we’re presented with a close up and there’s no avoiding the budget limitations for everything from set design to CG effects, of which all just about pass inspection... though only just about. If you watch it, check out the first vampire they shoot at the door. The weak effects make it look like Voldemort and nothing like the other vamps in the movie.
Strong and bassy are the key words here. From the get go we’re offered up a mini presentation of what’s to come with loud vampire screeches, ripping of flesh and bass driven score.
Generally speaking this sequel is a lot less action orientated with the majority of the scenes dialogue driven. The dialogue itself can range from sitting proudly in the front speakers to getting a little lost in the track when the characters are mumbling. I honestly though Lileth was talking in vamp tongues for the closing scenes it was so muffled, but on closer inspection it does seem to be English (albeit with a vampire hiss).
The big audio moments are left for the vampire attacks and they certainly do step the track up a notch or three. Scenes get loud fast here and the jump can be a little annoying as the movie wears on. It’s not so much that it’s powerful or all that dynamic, it’s just after hearing Stella mumble something about stopping these vampires from hurting another small town only to hit a wall of bass and vampire screeches in the next heartbeat gets a little overbearing towards the end of the movie and its lack of subtlety got a little tiresome.
The commentary with co-writer/director Ben Ketai and producer J R Young is as routine as they come. Providing fairly flat details about the shoot and rarely veering off of what's happening on screen.
'Graphic Inspirations: Comic To Film' has a handful of images from the graphic novel that you can click on and see a couple of minutes of Ben Ketai telling us about how the movie compares to the book.
'The Gritty Realism of Dark Days' (10;07 HD) is as close to a making of as we get. It's brief, shows a few bits of on-set footage and really offers up nothing too interesting.
Besides BD-Live and a PS3 theme on the disc, all we're left with is trailers for Blu-ray is High Definition, Legion, Salt, Takers and The Other Guys.
Even Diora Baird surviving for the majority of the movie isn't enough to make 30 Days of Night: Dark Days anything more than the usual DTV outing. It's well paced, has some pretty good characters and quite a lot is made of the small budget but there's nothing here to make it as fresh or as stylised as the original was, outside of giving us a bit more of an insight into what the vamps do on a larger scale (generally it's just screeching at each other I think).
The transfer makes everything a little prettier and the audio does a good job here and there, but without any stand out in the extras you might want to rent it or wait for a 30 Days two pack somewhere down the line.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 11th October 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1Spanish, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Italian
Subtitles: Danish, English, English HoH, Finnish, Hindi, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
Extras: PS3 Wallpaper Theme, Filmmaker Commentary, The Gritty Realism of Dark Days, Graphic Inspirations: Comic to Film (BD Exclusive)
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ben Ketai
Cast: Mia Kirshner, Kiele Sanchez, Diora Baird
Length: 92 minutes
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