(The Grim Gnome) I don’t like vampires, generally speaking. The whole rule-bound / old-world / invitation-only aspects make them about as scary as a supernatural Certified Public Accountant. Except for the ones in “30 Days of Night.” If you haven’t heard of this series you either have been moldering away in a casket or you’re metaphysically immune to the effects of horror-culture. A few years back, writer Steve Niles and artist Ben Templesmith wove together a freshly twisted premise with spattery exuberant artwork and pumped life back into the genre of the horror comic. The fresh twist on the vampire rules that gets “30 Days of Night” rolling is obvious from the title; if vampires hate sunlight, then what if they attacked a place that didn’t have much of it, say, a city located near the Arctic circle? What if a whole ragtag clan of vampires threw a party of sorts during the month of darkness and attacked the whole town. Add human hero. Stir well. Garnish with a nasty skewer at the end and, heck that’s what started the juggernaut. I really have to recommend it. Quite highly.
A sequel picked up the storyline and propelled it forward, again ending with a sickening little twist. And a third, completing a classical trilogy, right? If I understand the chronology correctly, the movie started development around this time and the comics kept coming. A collection of tales appeared, including a rather dumb one about vampires in space. Some of these feature artists other than Templesmith and honestly, I feel cheated with those issues, especially cheated when the artist is attempting to make work that sort of / kind of / almost resembles Templesmith’s art. So though I can’t highly recommend them all — one reason I can’t is because they’re STILL making new ones — I still have to confess I’ve bought and savored every one of them.
Niles’s other comics are nothing to ignore… but for the moment I WILL ignore them, or to be more exact I’ll postpone looking at them until another post. Who knew that comics would work so well for horror? I sure didn’t. I thought the EC’s Crypt Keeper was just weird and, OK, so I was afraid of “The Tomb of Dracula” but I was kid back then. I even thought “Dark Shadows” was scary.
And then there’s the “30 Days of Night” movie. I admit that I felt an actual quiver of excitement when I first heard Sam (“Army of Darkness”) Raimi’s name connected with the project. Alas, it was only as a producer. There are parts of the movie that are very good. For instance, some of the shots are very haunting, like an aerial tracking shot that shows the carnage of the initial attack. And throughout the movies human faces seem to have unusually de-saturated color which makes everyone look cold .. and then also makes the blood really pop out. And I really appreciated that at least a couple times when humans were standing outside in sub-zero temperatures that there were clouds of condensation when they breathed or spoke. As curmudgeonly northerner, I can’t STAND fake winters on screen. My comments don’t sound like a love-fest, though do they? Perhaps I’m grumpy for paying good money to see the movie in the theatre. I’m a stingy curmudgeon. But furthermore, I can’t help but thinking that the comic book was scarier. There was a LOT of back story in the comic book that was simply removed for the movie, so much that there doesn’t seem to be much possibility for a sequel. I was honestly pretty shocked that so much editing was required because I don’t usually consider comics to be that dense when it comes to story line.
“30 Days of Night” – the movie – comes out on video this week. Though I don’t feel unusually COMPELLED to see the movie again when it comes out on video, if I’m honest with myself, I’m pretty sure I will. If for no other reason than it will remind me of how much I loved the original comic.