Dark Days Makes for an Enjoyable Night
In my experience, direct-to-home video productions can be… well, how can I put it kindly? Not very good. Especially when they’re sequels. In fact, most of the time, they aren’t really sequels at all; instead, low-budget remakes with numbers slapped onto their titles. So it was quite a relief to discover that 30 Days of Night: Dark Days is an exception to this rule. I’m not saying it’s a great movie, but it does succeed as both a legitimate sequel to the 2007 theatrical release, 30 Days of Night, as well as a fairly faithful adaptation of the comic book/graphic novel, Dark Days (which is, in turn, a sequel to the comic book/graphic novel, 30 Days of Night).
30 Days of Night: Dark Days begins exactly like the comic, which is with the final scene of the original movie and comic. Following a month-long vampire invasion, husband and wife Eben and Stella watch the sunrise from a snowy enbankment in Barrow, Alaska. Eben has become a vampire to save the town’s few survivors and now turns to dust and blows away as the ultraviolet light of the sun radiates his body. This opening scene looks exactly like the closing scene of the first movie, with one exception: Stella is now portrayed by a different actress: Kiele Sanchez (A Perfect Getaway). I actually think she is better suited to play Stella; in 30 Days of Night, Melissa George was pretty, but bland. Stella is a strong character and has to carry the sequel largely on her own, and Sanchez does all right with it.
This sequel is no re-telling of its predecessor. As in the comic, it is a few months after the destruction of Barrow and Stella is travelilng across the country, promoting the book she has written about her experience and trying to get people to believe that vampires really do exist. This movie takes place in Los Angeles following an engagement where she sets a trap to expose vampires in her audience. Even with witnesses and videotaped evidence, it is dismissed as a hoax. But a local group of vampire hunters recruits Stella, convincing her to help them find and kill the queen vampire, Lilith, played by Mia Kirshner (The L Word).
In the comic, Lilith is the wife of vampire baddie, Marlow, who was killed in Barrow by Eben. In that continuity, she has a real grudge to bear against Stella. But since no such connection was made in the original movie version, it doesn’t exist here, either. Cutting out this subplot weakens the plot, turning 30 Days of Night: Dark Days into a story with less depth.
In fact, one of the biggest flaws in the comic to movie translation of the original 30 Days of Night was that it took very little plot and tried expanding it to fill two hours. The opposite occurs here. The Dark Days comic relies much more on subplots and details, but the movie condenses them into something simpler. So, on one hand, it is a more faithful adaptation than the original, but both movies still fall short of making a completely satisfying transition.
As one would expect with the lower budget, the look and feel of 30 Days of Night: Dark Days is inferior to the original movie. For one thing, the vampires don’t look the same. They don’t seem to have as many teeth and their fingernails aren’t as thick. Not even the novelty of using their own language is as effective in the sequel. Of course, the setting is different, so you also don’t have the stark contrast between a colorless white palette and the shocking red splatter of blood (but the same was true for the comic).
The other big difference in Dark Days, the movie, versus Dark Days, the comic, is that in the comic, a vampire blackmails Stella with the promise of telling her how to resurrect Eben. The possiblity that she could be reunited with her true love motivates her throughout the comic. In the movie, she realizes herself that such a resurrection might be possible, but seems to hold it as an afterthought until the epilogue of the movie. I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say that the ending of both the comic and movie are unexpected shockers.
I liked this movie more than I disliked it. I’m happy that it honored both the story of its cinematic predecessor and the story of its source material. I wouldn’t mind seeing more direct-to-home video sequels for 30 Days of Night. The subject was certainly fertile ground for storytelling in the comics, spawning numerous characters and miniseries. Perhaps it could do the same for DVD and Blu-Ray players everywhere. I know my machines have seen plenty worse!