Book Review: X-Files/30 Days of Night, Steve Niles et al. (2011)

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Don’t MAKE him say the v-word, Scully!

four out of five stars

When the grisly remains of some sixteen truck drivers are discovered by plow driver Henry-Lee “Patches” Brown, Mulder and Scully are called out to Wainwright, Alaska to investigate. Decapitated, drained of blood, and hung atop a 40-foot pole, these clearly aren’t the victims of an ordinary serial killer – despite what their colleagues at the FBI believe. Mulder and Scully’s investigation leads them to an abandoned 19th century ship, a limbless old man, an ancient artifact, and a young girl covered in third-degree burns (and then…not). All the while, they must contend with the 24-hour darkness that has enveloped wintry Wainwright.

A fan of the 2007 film 30 Days of Night, I was researching the comic book series by Steve Niles, trying to decide whether I should give it a try, when I stumbled upon this crossover series. Whereas the 30 Days of Night comics generally have poor to fair reviews, this one came highly recommended. But hey, they had me at “The X-Files“!

Steve Niles and Adam Jones (of Tool fame) expertly capture the tone and spirit of the show in this adaptation: the wry humor, the amiable-yet-sometimes-exasperated banter, the sense of camaraderie between our favorite two federal agents. The writers nail the characters of Mulder and Scully (and Skinner!), even if the art isn’t always spot-on. As I read, I could easily envision this story on the small screen. (Or large. Someone make this happen please! Given the comic’s final panel, it would make an excellent sequel to the 30 Days of Night film!)

The story wasn’t quite as long as I would have liked, but then I’d rather the writers leave me wanting more rather than wishing for less.

Whether you count yourself a member of the X-Files or 30 Days fandom, X-Files/30 Days of Night belongs in your book pile.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Movie Review: 30 Days of Night (2007)

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

A darker take on the vampire flick

four out of five stars

30 DAYS OF NIGHT is based on the first three-issue series of graphic novels by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith (also called “30 Days of Night”). I have not yet read any of the graphic novels (according to Wiki, there are 13 series), but after watching the movie, my interest is certainly piqued. Since I have little knowledge of the novels, my review is only of the movie – not how it compares to the graphic novels, or how it fits into the series as a whole.

The story takes place in the isolated oil town of Barrow, Alaska – a town so far north that, for 30 consecutive days each winter, the sun does not rise (hence the title, “30 Days of Night”). Anticipating thirty days of uninterrupted darkness, a group of bloodthirsty vampires descends upon Barrow, quickly picking off most of the townspeople. A brave few, including the local sheriff, Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and Stella, his fire marshal wife (Melissa George), manage to survive, taking refuge in hidden attics and making supply runs to the general store under the cover of blinding blizzards. The film’s climax comes on the 29th day, in the form of a fight between Eben and the head vampire, set amid the backdrop of a town in flames.

Overall, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT is a good enough horror flick. The dialogue is a bit choppy at first, but it evens out as the movie progresses. The acting is solid enough, though no one really delivers a stand-out performance. The movie’s greatest asset is its setting: an isolated town, blanketed with snow and darkness. The blue and grey tones cast on the set and actors are eerily beautiful. The overhead shots, of which there are many, are simply stunning. The town even looks gorgeous when it’s on fire.

As for the vampires, they aren’t what you’d expect; they’re more animalistic than your usual horror movie vamps. Complete with bat-shaped faces and pterodactyl-like wails straight out of the Cretaceous Period, they resemble alien-animal-Slavic zombie hybrids. Kind of like James Carville, but more evil (only slightly, though). One of them even looks like he might be Marilyn Manson’s undead cousin. For the most part, the vampires don’t talk, but communicate through wails, screeches, body language and at times telepathy (or so it seems). The head vampire is allowed several lines of dialogue (all in subtitles…I suspect it’s probably Russian, through it sounds a bit like Klingon), and he occasionally reaches the brink of philosophizing, for example, about the existence of god. Yet, these moments are prematurely truncated. Consequently, we never really get a sense of the vampires’ back story – their origins, their hierarchy, their future plans for humanity. Which is a shame, since the graphic novels sound as though they do flesh out (pun intended) the vampiric characters in greater detail.

Even though the filmmakers failed in personalizing the vampires, I generally enjoyed the movie – up until the last ten minutes or so, that is. The film’s climax is silly and unnecessary. My quibble isn’t with Eben’s poor showing in the fight scene; indeed, given the circumstances, you’d expect that the vampires would whip his hybrid arse up and down Main Street. Rather, the fight (and the plot twist leading up to it) is wholly unnecessary, as the sun rose soon after the climax. (Like, in a matter of minutes.) Neither Stella nor Eben’s hideouts were compromised by the fire, so both could have waited it out. The whole silly spectacle might possibly have been redeemed it if had been used to set the film up for a sequel – which is what I’d expected – but it didn’t seem to easily allow for a second film, at least not involving our hero and heroine. As a result, the ending was just…weird. Weird and incomprehensible. However, after researching the graphic novel series, the ending makes much more sense; yet, it just doesn’t work in the context of a single movie. A sequel would certainly go a long ways towards salvaging this movie’s ending.

By the by, is there anything hotter than a grizzled Josh Hartnett in a thermal undershirt? Meow!

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)