The last time we saw Stella she was holding her decaying husband as his ashes drifted into the sunrise after the young woman barely survived the scourge of the vampires in her home town of Barrow Alaska in the first ’30 Days of Night’, a movie that I thought back then was suitably creepy, bloody beyond belief but still a very effective and entertaining vampire thriller. Three years later we have the inevitable sequel, Straight to DVD style, with ’30 Days of Night: Dark Days’, which I’m sure to the surprise of almost no one pales in comparison to the hyper violent original, but is still a movie I didn’t find to be a complete waste of time.
Stella, looking more like actress Kiele Sanchez and less like Melissa George, has now dedicated her life to tracking these creatures and exposing their existence to the world even though the world doesn’t seem all that quick to believe that razor toothed, incredibly wasteful vampires roam the earth. I mean blood goes everywhere except in their mouths when these guys bite you. We catch up with Stella at an auditorium in Los Angeles, where her tracking has led her, giving a seminar announcing that her town didn’t die from an oil leak but instead these poor people died as a result of death by vampire. They don’t believe her. They laugh. She turns on some sun lights. A couple of suckas burn to death. Who’s laughing now?
Eventually Stella is contacted by three fellow survivors of various vampire attacks who have taken it upon themselves to hunt these creatures down and would really like a fourth. Stella isn’t all that interested, particularly after she meets this crew’s mentor in Dane (Ben Cotton), but once she learns that the queen bee is in town, the one who sanctioned the murder of all she knew and loved, in the completely evil but cute as a button vampiress Lilith (Mia Kirshner), she’s all in.
The plan is a simple one. Our crew which consists of Paul the hero looking dude (Rhys Coiro), Amber the tough talking chick who runs at the slightest sign of trouble (Diora Baird) and Todd the Black Guy (Harold Perrineau) all descend into the hive to find and kill Lilith. It’s a simple plan. It’s a crappy plan. Worst Plan Ever. Check that… the final plan is the Worst Plan Ever so this is the second worst plan ever. Regardless, not everybody is going to make it out of this initial raid, and I’ll let you take a wild guess on who ‘Not Everyone’ represents.
So with our crew down a man it’s time to regroup and refocus. Drop a little guerilla warfare on these vampires over there, get some intel on what their master plan is over here and then formulate a strategy to stop that master plan. They have a plan. Amber wants to run. Worst vampire hunter ever. They have a plan. It’s the Worst Plan Ever. Not that this is going to stop their plan from working.
Expecting a Straight to Video sequel to somehow be better than their much heavier funded theatrical big brothers isn’t all that realistic because it simply doesn’t happen that often and outside of the ‘Undisputed’ DTV sequels, I can’t think of any off hand so we easily accept the fact the we are going to get a little less and just go from there. So armed with this knowledge and a completely malleable judging system for this particular movie it still falls short of the mark, if not horribly so.
One of the things that made the first ‘30 Days of Night’ so entertaining is that there was so much bloodletting mayhem that it had to be seen to be believed, however due to what I’m sure are budgetary constraints the mayhem in this is one subdued. Too much so. Since there wasn’t as much action we are left examining more of the story elements and the story elements supporting this movie is one of this films weaker elements. For starters these vamps weren’t near as oppressively evil as the vampires from the original. They looked the same and did the same stuff but they just didn’t have that same ‘je ne se quoi’ that the vamps in the original possessed. Regardless, considering these somewhat lame vampires apparently don’t like Stella all that much, one would think they should just walk up and kill her. She doesn’t seem to be protecting herself all that much and only carries a gun with a 14mag clip so just get rid of her, but we have mentioned that they are kinda lame. The vampire hunter angle is cool and all, but man, these are the worst vampire hunters ever. All they do is walk into a dark place and shoot until they run out of bullets… which always happens. How they managed to survive this long is beyond me. And don’t get me started on Vampire Hunter Amber.
It’s not all bad though. The movie looked great, that atmosphere was solid and Mia Kirshner was suitably creepy while at the same time completely adorable as the Queen Lilith. Even her row of fangs was kind of cute. While the action was minimal by comparison what action there was in this movie was well presented and Kiele Sanchez, at least after a while, made me completely forget all about Melissa George. There was a final scene in this movie that was something right out of stupidville but whaddayagonnado?
‘30 Days of Night: Dark Days’ certainly has its limitations even taking into consideration beforehand that it’s not going be as good as the movie it’s spawned from but the few things it does do well, it does really well. Problem is there’s just isn’t enough of these things to cover up the flaws in the narrative or to sustain a feature film to the finish line.