30 Days of Night (2007)

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Ben Foster, Mark Rendall

Directed by: David Slade

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Vampires descend on Barrow, Alaska in 30 Days of Night

Welcome to Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the US. Population 300-odd, dropping steeply to 152 during the winter, when the sun goes down for (yes, you guessed it) 30 days of night. And dropping even more precipitately when a coven of vampires descend, to embark on a grisly feeding frenzy. Now why didn't anybody – human or vampire – think of that before?

Struggling to keep everything together is the town's sheriff, Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett), who may look like your all-American hero, but who quickly buckles and proves ineffective in the face of the unprecedented horror that has gripped his tiny, icebound territory – until the film's startling and poetically satisfying climax, which neatly turns the tables on the vampire myth in an entirely new way.

The vampires themselves are also a new kettle of fish – or rather, an old one, harking back to the bald pate and razor-sharp rat incisors of Max Shreck's Count Orlok. These are not the effete dandies of Anne Rice, the suave sadist of Hammer nor the super-cool road warriors of Near Dark or The Lost Boys, but savage, feral, alien creatures ripped straight from the pages of Eastern European folklore, who communicate in a strange, guttural language punctuated by sharp cries as chilling as the bark of a fox on heat.

And boy, are they hungry. Superb aerial shots sweep across the isolated town as the icy, snowbound streets run red with pools of blood, an image of hell that's as gripping as it's gory – John Carpenter's The Thing meets, well, John Carpenter's Vampires.

All in all, it's good to see vampires back where they belong – centre stage. I feel that zombies have ruled this world as a stumbling, demented box office king long enough! It's time for the vampires to rise again…

Josh Hartnett as Sheriff Eben Oleson in 30 Days of Night

Sure, there are clichés to be found – the inevitable spats between the frightened survivors as they huddle in an attic, trying to wait out the endless night, and the now traditional rubbish reason why no-one can use their mobile phone to call for help. The characterisation is also fairly standard, aside from Eben's transformation from big fish sheriff in a small, cold pond to terrified survivalist out of his depth to ultimate desperate hero. But on the whole this is an astonishingly good, superbly atmospheric horror film with some great set pieces – in particular the scene featuring a chainsaw mounted on a tractor and a brace of bear traps. But then again, I'd expect no less from director David Slade, the man responsible for the most inventive use of bulldog clips ever in paedophile shock thriller Hard Candy

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