Monday, October 18, 2010

30 Days of Night: Dark Days – review

Director: Ben Ketai

Release Date: 2010

Contains spoilers

Dark Days is the sequel to 30 Days of Night and is loosely (and when I say that I mean very loosely) based on the graphic novel Dark Days. It is often unfair to compare and contrast with the books a film is based on but I find it difficult not to with this. There are obvious reasons why it is only loosely based – after all 30 Days of Night (the movie) deviated from the original but there are further changes.

So, before I go on a spoiler spree – for those who don’t want that I will say that Ben Ketai cut his teeth on the short presentation 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust and does what he can with an obviously reduced budget. He certainly proves himself a better director of action sequences than Davis Slade but script, story and effects leave us with a product that perhaps floats below average, all told…

burning under sunlamps
Okay spoiler time. We begin with a recap of the events in Barrow, with a new Stella (Kiele Sanchez). Aspects of the original are shown along with Stella replaced. Stella is now trying to make the world listen and has come to LA because a letter from a mysterious correspondent called Dane (Ben Cotton, Blood Ties and Stan Helsing) has suggested a presence of vampires in the city. Stella is giving a talk on what really happened at Barrow, people laugh when she mentions vampires but she has a surprise. Sunlamps – these fry the two vampires in the audience causing a panic. Stella is arrested.

She is in an interrogation room when Agent Norris (Troy Ruptash) comes in and tells her that no-one will buy her clever little hoax. He unhooks the camera and then tells her that the bodies are gone and that he would kill her but someone else feels that such an act would draw too much attention. The threat is clear and Stella heads for her motel.

She gets into her room and is faced with three strangers – Amber (Diora Baird, also Stan Helsing), Paul (Rhys Coiro) and Todd (Harold Perrineau). These are hunters sent by Dane and I was unsure as to this set up. In the graphic Stella had set the group of hunters up herself and this indicated a lot about the character that had occurred in the intervening year. Anyway they suggest no-one will believe Stella and Amber wanders off for a smoke, disgusted with the supposed new recruit’s attitude.

nothing lives without a head
She sees a vampire approaching and heads back inside – they have found Stella. Given the message was she wouldn’t be killed, and the fact that these vampires will not act without an alpha say-so, one has to wonder at this turn of events. The vampire ends up with head trapped in the doorway, blown apart by gunfire – an effect that I thought a little ropey, to be honest. The hunters take Stella to Dane.

Ben Cotton as Dane
Now we see the real difference between this and the graphic. Dane is a vampire but somehow the change didn’t take and he kept some humanity. Actually, in the graphic, he was after revenge for the killing of Marlowe, until he realised that Eben had not killed Marlowe and it was the vampire Vicente who had killed Dane’s sire. Dane suggests that Lilith (Mia Kirshner, Dracula the Series and Vampire Diaries) is in town and nothing is done without her say-so as she is the real big vampire cheese. Here come the really big spoilers.

resurrecting a crispy fried vampire
By the end of the film Dane will be killed – despite being the best character to go into the spin off novels – and this will be without having a sexual relationship with Stella, who instead has a quicky with the vanilla, and all too human, Paul. This actually means the development of Stella as a character does not happen in parallel with the graphic and so the identical coda feels wrong. The coda is the resurrection, by Stella, of Eben – as she discovers that blood will raise a crispy fried vampire. This leads to her subsequent biting by her resurrected and hungry vampire husband.

poor doomed Agent Norris
Worse still the two best characters, for me, in this film – Norris and Lilith – are also killed, despite also being excellent recurring characters in the novels. We are losing all resemblance to the graphic/prose novels and that is a shame. Perhaps if the filmmakers were not using the books as a loose basis then things would not be too bad. All new characters and new stories set in the 30 Days universe would have seemed the more logical way to go.

Mia Kirshner as Lilith
On a plus side the click click language has gone. That was a good thing and Kirshner proves herself yet again with a presence filled performance. I didn’t buy the Stella arc in this, they missed the point to my way of thinking. The other vampires didn’t look as good as those in the first film. I did like the way they built an animalistic vampire society (though society is perhaps a strong word given the low number of vampires that seem to be in it) but if Marlow, Lilith and Dane (and to a degree Norris) could show free (human level) thinking, why not the others?

Kiele Sanchez as Stella
The hunters were a major fail – they are meant to be rough, tough vampire hunters but they make fundamental mistakes and don’t even know about the virulent nature of vampirism in this universe. In other words, if one of your group is bitten, don’t take them with you. That said, they are up against vampires who they can torture, say they will use (in front of the vampire), release and follow straight back to a nest! Not the brightest buttons in the box then.

This is flawed, but it did work to a degree and worth a watch for the eerily evil presence of Mia Kirshner. 4.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Marissa Farrar said...

I really enjoyed 30 Days of Night (though recently a friend of mine, who lives in Alaska, told me she couldn't get past the first ten minutes because the setting was completely wrong). Anyway, I was sort of excited to see there was a sequel. What a shame it was done so badly!

Zahir Blue said...

My review is on my blog, but I covered some of the same stuff--Stella just doesn't have the arc she needs, Dane is hideously under-used, Mia Kirshner is very good, etc. The nature of the vampires here is interesting in and of itself, with predatory instincts taking over (usually). Methinks this latter explains why some vampires are different--they are potential alphas for some reason.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi both... Marissa - its not the worst film ever but it does falter.

Zahir, I have read your review and was all too aware that I was treading similar ground - our views tally a lot on this one, I feel, but I didn't want to simply rehash your excellent review.

It still cracks me up that they can kill the three best characters in the (book) series.

Bill Dan Courtney said...

I just did not like this one too much while I did enjoy the first film. In both films I thought the vampires behaved a bit more like zombies in some ways in the 2nd film that, to me, became more apparent with the band of humans tracking them with guns in LA. I ahd read some praise of this film online but I did not really enjoy the ride in this one though I had wanted to.

Bill Dan Courtney said...

I jsut did not like this one Andy. I wanted to though. I liked the first film and have seen it a few times. I think the vampires behave a bit like zombies in these films and more so in Dark Days. I just did not like the transition from northern Alaska to LA suddenly. I could not connect with these characters like the 1st one either. The 'tough chick' character in these films is tiring me. The girl in the 1st film was believable but now she becomes a pistol packing hard ass. I did not like the vampire clan either. I was sorely disappointed actually and even gace the disk away to a friend since I do not anticipate ever watching it again. I did keep the 1st film however.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Bill, I think the biggest problem was how they approached it.

The graphics do transition from Alaska to LA but... Stella in the Graphics was a cop - rather than a firefighter - who has spent 12 months training mercenaries to be vampire hunters.

Inthis she shows up in LA and suddenly turns into a hard-ass over night.

The graphic also had a continuation of the story based in New Orleans fom the first graphic, that allowed a reader an urban continuity. Thus the Judith character seeks Stella out but can't in this as they didn't include that thread in the first film.

They are book to film problems but the film has problems of its own, I agree. However it is better than some of the films out there ;)

Anonymous said...

Whatever the faults of Dark Days, some elements were so cool that they almost make up for them. Especially Kirshner's Lilith and her Bathory/Carmilla-like blood bath. Also: Shooting the vamp's face to pieces, the UV surprise, the wannabe's test. I think it's a worthy sequel to the already class TDON.

Anyway, excellent blog! My favorite vamp movies: 1) Let Me In, 2) Twilight, 3) Last Man On Earth, 4) Nosferatu ('79), 5) Wisdom Of Crocodiles. I tend to favor vampires that break the 'rules' (which are really Hammer or Buffy rules - e.g. huge canine fangs, instantly incinerated by daylight...).

Keep up the good work!


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Halek - welcome and thanks for the comment. Some excellent films in your top 5 but I can't agree with Twilight, I'm afraid...

This isn't in some anti-Twilight stance (I actually quite like the books) but because I don't think they are very good movies.

Nevertheless, the world would be boring if we all liked the same thing. Have a good nosey round, hopefully you'll spot some vamp films that you haven't seen and tickle your fancy.

Anonymous said...

"Nevertheless, the world would be boring if we all liked the same thing."

I certainly agree with that!

You may like the Twilight graphic novel. It's much closer to the book.