I’ve never read the original ‘30 Days of Night’ comic, but the main hook is brilliant: what happens when vampires invade a small northern town just as a month of wintry darkness and isolation descends? This is a story that was made for film. Director David Slade (working with Steve Niles, the comic’s writer) has crafted an interesting, tense, and claustrophobic horror film filled with strong performances and some good shock and gore.

Slade takes his time with the set-up of the film, different narrative elements gradually building together piece by piece, helping to develop the characters and establish the setting. When the main thrust of the action does begin, it seems inevitable and inescapable. This film reminded me a lot of John Carpenter’s The Thing: both concern remote frozen settlements under attack by otherworldly beings and both deal with isolation and claustrophobia. However, The Thing deals mostly with paranoia (never knowing if the man standing next to you is really human), whereas 30 Days deals more with interpersonal relations under strain.

Technically, the film looks really interesting. Slade has an excellent eye for visuals and he crafts several genuinely frightening and tense sequences. The film’s (relatively) low budget lets it down at certain points, however: some of the establishing shots of the town are a littlle amateurish and there is obvious use of CG and miniatures. Those are minor quibbles, however, and generally the visuals are quite good. There are several continuity holes, however, perhaps remnants of deleted scenes or altered sequences. They aren’t really noticeable and actually help add to the disorientation created during the attack on the town.

The performances are all above average, with Josh Hartnett settling nicely into his new position of leading man. As well, following from his previous work in Hostage, Ben Foster seems eager to establish himself as the go-to guy for playing crazy bastards. His characterisation in 30 Days is borderline over-the-top but it seems to work.

It’s nice to see a straight-forward vampire film that manages to bring a fresh approach to an often tired genre. I’m not sure if the types of vampires seen in 30 Days are as revolutionary as everyone seems to believe, but I personally enjoyed them, all black eyes and gaping teeth, practically shark-like.

30 Days of Night shows that interesting films can be made from interesting comics and that horror films are made all the better by good writing and excellent direction.