30 Days Of Night, based on the popular comic book by Steve Niles, was a surprisingly good vampire movie, one that played things straight and true to the genre's savage roots and which borrowed from survivalist horror films to play up on a really solid atmosphere of claustrophobia. That film and its small town setting way up north in Alaska proved to be a pretty damn solid horror film and it did well enough at the box office to inspire a sequel, though not so well that the sequel was going to get theatrical play. And thus, we have 30 Days Of Night: Dark Days, the second entry in the series (though probably not the last if its ending is anything to go off of) and a straight to video release from Sony.
Set a year after the massacre that ended the first film, Stella (Kiele Sanchez in the role originally played by Melissa George) has survived and has taken on a new career as an evangelist of sorts - she travels the country and hosts meetings in which she tries to convince those with enough authority to do something about it that vampires do exist and that they pose a pretty serious threat to humanity. This brings her to the attention of a guy named Dane (Ben Cotton) who is actually a demon in human form and who is, along with some cohorts, running a campaign of sorts to rid the world of these bloodsucking problem starters.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Stella's eventually going to team up with these would-be Van Helsings, and she does just that in hopes that they'll help her find and kill Lilith (Mia Kirshner), the current leader of the vampires. If she can do this, she'll have struck a major blow against the vampire race and put humanity in a good spot to make it out of this impending problem alive. The vampires aren't stupid, however, and once they're wise to what Stella and Dane are up to, the wage war against them all throughout Los Angeles.
First things first - the obvious? There's no thirty days of night here. Once you move out of Alaska and into Los Angeles, that whole month of darkness thing that helped set the first film apart gets thrown out the window and renders the title a bit silly. On top of that, the storyline here is pretty basic and while horror films don't necessarily need to be complicated, they frequently benefit from original plotting of which this picture has very little. Add to that the fact that the picture puts a whole lot more emphasis on action than on horror and it's easy to see why those who appreciated the tensions, suspense and nasty edge that the first picture had in spades might walk away disappointed with this follow up.
To be fair to the film, it is entertaining in a superficial sort of way. It's fairly predictable but it's well paced and it's got a fair bit of impressive bloodshed and carnage to boast about. The performances are sufficient, if unremarkable, but the cinematography and sound design are periodically impressive. There's enough here that works that if you enjoy action horror hybrids, you might appreciate the picture. Just be sure to keep your expectations in check, as there aren't really any legitimate scares here nor does the film really bring anything new or honestly all that interesting to the table.
30 Days Of Night: Dark Days looks okay in this 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Not so surprisingly the film makes use of a pretty grim color scheme so it isn't the most colorful film ever made but black levels are usually fairly strong and not at the cost of shadow detail. The red blood looks nice and bold without feeling too pumped up and there are no problems to report with print damage or visible debris. There's a bit of line shimmering here and there and some of the darker scenes do show some very mild compression artifacts. All in all, this isn't a bad transfer at all, but it's not an amazing one either.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is aggressive enough to impress from time to time, with some great ambient noise mixing nicely with the more in your face sound effects that take place during the kill scenes and action sequences. Levels are well balanced and there are no problems with any hiss or any distortion at all. Dialogue is consistently easy to understand and follow and there's enough going on in this mix to make most surround sound junkies happy.
First up, as far as the extras go, is a commentary track with director/co-writer Ben Ketai, who spends a lot of time discussing the comic books that inspired this movie and noting how this second entry in the series relates to the first picture as well as how they differ. Joined by the film's producer, J.R. Young, the discussion also covers casting, location shooting, effects work and the typical commentary subjects you'd expect would be broached in a talk like this. It won't change your mind about the film, but if you did happen to enjoy it, you might want to spend the time to check this track out as it is hands-down the most informative supplement on this DVD.
Also included on the disc is a ten minute featurette entitled Vampires Exist - The Gritty Realism Of Dark Days, which is a fairly standard and all too brief collection of cast and crew interviews spiced up with some periodic inserts which include behind the scenes and effects footage. Rounding out the extras are trailers for a few unrelated Sony properties, animated menus and chapter stops.
30 Days Of Night: Dark Days is moderately entertaining in its own right but lacks the punch and originality of the film that came before it and which it inevitably will get compared to, and once that comparison is made, it's hard to see the movie as anything more than mediocre. Sony's DVD looks and sounds fine and has a couple of decent extras but there's really not a whole lot of replay value here. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.