I recently took advantage of various Halloween sales to pick up a copy of "30 Days of Night" the movie adaptation of the horror comic of the same name. The premise of the comic and the movie is that there's a town in Alaska called Barrow where, for thirty days in the winter, the sun never rises. Vampires find out about this town and head there to feast on the town in a month long orgy of eating.
The movie ended up being quite good, much better than it was reviewed if you ask me, but there were a few things I wasn't sure about in terms of deviation from the comic. So, in the spirit of research, and in an effort to reread a comic I had enjoyed so much, last night I read the original all over again.
Here's where Bones will probably reach through the screen and punch me, but I have to say that compared to the comic, the movie was much, much better. Spoilers abound, so you've been warned.
In the comic, Eben (the sheriff) and Stella (the deputy) are married and all sorts of in love. In the movie, they're estranged for reasons we never find out about, and she's a Fire Marshall. The change in employment serves no purpose other than giving her a reason to not be living in Barrow, but the tension between them not only gave the actors a lot to work with. At one point, after the vampires have arrived and the survivors are hiding out, Josh Hartnett, who plays Eben shoots Melissa George (Stella) a look after her "I guess it's good you didn't want kids" line that said more than ten pages of writing ever could.
At the end of the movie, Eben shoots himself up with vampire blood so that he can fight the remaining vamps and provide a distraction for Stella to escape. She's trapped hiding under a truck with a kid who somehow escaped, and is in danger of burning to death after the vampires start burning the town down. In the comic, Eben transforms himself so that he can fight the vamps and save the town, which is a noble goal, but in the movie it seemed so much more noble because he was willing to destroy himself to save one woman, and not just any woman, but the woman who had left him. I would expect him to go off and fight in the comic because he and Stella were so in love with each other. I didn't expect it here.
The movie also increased the dramatic tension of the entire experience. We see various townspeople being taken before the town square is attacked. The human familiar that wanders into town before the vamps is sufficiently creepy and does a lot to sow discord and confusion before things really start happening. In the comic, the pacing seemed really off and you never got the feelings of dread and isolation that the movie evokes.
The one area where I liked the comic better is in some of the drama that plays out among the vampires. The vampires invite a head vampire dude to come and revel in the slaughter and he basically shows up and starts smacking fools down, basically saying that the vampires have spent decades making themselves appear to be nothing more than myths, and here these dumbasses come and eat a whole town. The notion of a hidden vampire nation is always appealing to me, even with it having been done to death by now in countless books, tv shows and movies. It makes sense to do it in the comic, as the book is clearly the beginning of a larger tale, while the movie needs to stand on it's own, even though talks of a sequel are being held. I can see why they decided to not go that route in the movie, and if you didn't know about it being in the comic, I don't think you'd think "hey, this movie needs some secret vampire nation infighting", but still.
In both cases, I don't understand exactly what the vampires hoped to gain from this, given that once the town is dead, it's dead and most likely coming back, but I guess they're just really hungry and here's a chance to eat like kings. If there is a hidden vampire nation, the desire to go buck wild for a month and feed out in the open, even if the open is cold as hell certainly would have appeal, but they don't talk about that much in the comic, so I'm not sure that's the motivation. In the movie it's just "we like to eat people and here you all are".
The other thing that neither story explains very well is how for thirty days a bunch of townspeople can stay hidden from a pack of vampires. I mean, come on. The town isn't that large. Neither the movie nor the comic gives the impression that the townspeople move from house to house, so I don't understand why, in thirty days, a pack of vampires couldn't go from hosue and house and basically tear them all apart, uncovering all of the townspeople in the process. It's not like they had to sleep. Besides, gorged themselves pretty heavily when they first attacked, so at some point you'd think they'd get hungry for more blood and start looking. The comic mentions how the vampires' sense of smell is lessened in the cold, which would explain why the vamps couldn't sniff out the survivors, but I don't remember any mention of that in the movie. At the end of the movie, once the vamps were driven out, a bunch of townspeople who we hadn't seen before just come ambling out into the town square and I was like "where the fuck were you people?" It just didn't ring true, but again, that's in both versions.
Complaints aside, I really enjoyed the movie. The vampires weren't the pretty boy, "I just want to hold your hand" or the "I'm so emotional and conflicted" versions we've been seeing so much of lately, and not a one of them had any redeeming qualities whatsoever. They were just brutal, savage, inhumane killing machines. In a word, they were fucking scary. Guess that's two words. Sorry. Don't get me wrong, I like Angel and Spike and Blade and all of those tormented vampire dudes, but the horror fan in me likes vampires to scare your ass off, like they did when I read "Salem's Lot" so many, many years ago.
In the end, I still like the comic, but the small plot changes, increased tension and bucket and buckets of gore puts the movie version over the top in my head. Melissa George being plenty cute, even in a parka, certainly doesn't hurt.