20 April 2012

Love At First Bite

Contains spoilers...

In retrospect, maybe watching The Matrix for the first time at the age of 11 was a little too young. I don't have any moral reason for this except for the fact that the movie was just too good for my child-brain to comprehend. At that age, The Matrix was basically heroin to me, in that it provided a huge high, numbness, a skewed vision of reality and of course, addiction. Eager to see a bunch of leather clad super-gimps shoot the shit out of each other, I would race home from school each day and put the video on. For those who don't remember- videos are basically DVDs for grand-dad and are these days used for building houses, heavy doorstops, and silencing prostitutes. For about a month I watched that film every-single-day without fail and completely, from start to finish. For a child who had just discovered masturbation, finding two hours a day for a film really did show a huge level of dedication.

Again, however, like a drug addiction, the more I watched The Matrix, the further away I got from feeling the original high that it had brought me. Through almost over-dosing on its kung-fu goodness, my bullet-time tolerance was increasing daily and by the end of the month I knew something had to be done. In order to wean myself off the addiction, before I found myself performing with a double ended dildo in front of a group of fat men, I decided to go cold turkey. Because I'd over-watched it, my greedy 11 year old self had ruined it for me and so in the end I had to avoid that film for the next five years.

This taught me not to watch my favourite movies too often as, like repeatedly killing the same breed of tramp, it would eventually just get a little bit boring. When choosing a film to watch I therefore regularly go for things I just really like, with the residents of my top ten list being relegated to just once every year or so. One of these films that I must have seen eight or nine times since its release in 2007 is David Slades 30 Days of Night. In fact the last time I watched that movie was only yesterday and weirdly I noticed something is starting to happen- for some reason, I started to love that movie too.

The film starts off with Ben Foster wandering through the snow whilst looking like an even more paedo version of 'Worzel Gummidge'. Although we can't be sure, we're given the impression that Ben is a bad guy through certain subtle clues such as his scrawny hair, bad teeth and the scene in which he stabs the living fuck out of a couple of dogs. Because people tend to prefer strangers not to put knives into their pets, it's at this point that the local Policeman steps in to help sort this naughtiness out.

There are lots of reasons why this Policeman looks a lot like Josh Hartnett, but the main one has to be because that's exactly who it is. I'd therefore like to think that a lot of people came to 30 Days of Night mistakingly believing it to be a sequel to that classic rape-y comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights. For anyone who missed out on that crappy movie, it basically ends with Hartnett being tied up and forced to sleep with a girl who is ignoring his pleas for her to stop and get off. It's essentially the same joke that was used in Straw Dogs except because the gender roles are reversed the blatant sexual assault becomes much more acceptable to laugh at.

Anyway, so Josh Hartnett arrests Scrawny Worzel for dog stabbing and throws his probably shitty arse in prison. Considering that this film is set in Alaska, the day before the sun is about to set for the next month, you'd think that the residents would relish any visitors to help boost their tourism. Apparently though, beggars can be choosers as they express less than joy to the sudden arrival of Danny Huston and his gang of blood-thirsty, sightseeing, psychopaths.

30 Days of Night isn't the best vampire film since Twishite reignited interest in the fanged honkeys, as that honour clearly belongs to Let the Right One In. It is however one of the better ones simply because it's the exact opposite of the sparkly cocks that we're currently having waggled in our face all of the time. These days, when we think of vampires, we think of handsome men, romanticism and love. The market is, at the minute, flooded with pale faced, pretty boys who would rather go all glittery in the sun than savagely tear the shit out of somebodies throat. With films like Interview with the Vampire and Christopher Lee's Dracula, presenting the monsters as either being suave gentlemen or having faces like Brad Pitt, the finger of blame can't just be pointed at Twishite. However it is clearly the current popularity of that latter film which has helped reinforce this image of the average vampire being a dickless, punchable twonk.

It is therefore nice to see a film such as 30 Days of Night which features some fucking weird looking vampires. When looking at cinema's earliest blood-suckers, if 'Edward Cullen' has evolved from the dapper Bela Lugosi then the Vampires here are clearly much closer to the twisted, shadowy freak from Nosferatu. Unless you're a fan of large gaps between eyes and the soothing sound of a harsh clicking voice then chances are you aren't going to be seduced by these pale, bloodstained bastards.

Danny Huston and his gang have only one reason for visiting the darkened town and that's to murder and eat everyone in it. He's not interested in chatting or dating and so for the remaining running time we simply see him hunting for a meal whilst the humans quietly hold up in various buildings. The film is fundamentally a large game of hide and seek playing by the same rules as the 1942-1945 match between Anne Frank versus the Nazis. Josh Hartnett's team have to do their best to lie low for a month whilst the vampires have to keep slaughtering people until they can locate and kill them too.

Beyond its depiction of vampires, 30 Days of Night does have a lot to offer; it is suitably suspenseful; gory; intelligent; and thanks to director David Slade, it's also impressively stylish with a look that really does bring to life the comic book from which it's based. With the obvious dumbing down of Hollywood in the name of mass appeal, you know you're watching a horror movie with balls when you graphically see a young child get repeatedly axed until her head reluctantly and stubbornly detaches. It's not often that you see the brutal and gory murder of a child in a film and so it was a relief for me to discover that I'm not the kind of person who will watch this and then get an erection. Personalities aside, the cause of boners really are a reliable way to judge a persons moral leanings.

The film isn't perfect, with Hartnett and his estranged wife’s relationship being a little uninteresting. The duration of the story is also a bit dodgy, with days being randomly skipped and no reference to what happened during them. In fact it might almost have been better if it had just been set over a couple of days rather than thirty. Although considering how integral that aspect is, that's a bit like saying Titanic would have been better set on a plane or that The Queen would have been better if it wasn't about an irrelevant, outdated, scrounger.

So like I said, this film seems to have promoted itself from being one that I really like to one that I love. I think that this is because every time I've watched it I've found something new to like about it and slowly but surely I've invested more and more into the characters. The deaths are all satisfyingly creative with huge blenders, a fuck-off chainsaw on a tractor and Danny Huston literally getting punched through the face. The conclusion to Hartnett's character is supposed to be emotional, but until recently I considered it a fault of the film that his death left me feeling a little unarsed. On last viewing though, I did finally care when unlucky Slevin's skin turned into black confetti and peeled off him like a mouldy onion.

To go back to the drug analogy- if The Matrix is heroin, then a film like 30 Days of Night is the equivalent of smoking normal boring, not illegal cigarettes. You try one and don't really feel the difference, but keep on trying because it takes less balls than a proper suicide. A few months down the line you've gone from the occasional fag to stabbing yourself in the chest with a screwdriver just so that you can put the death-sticks in holes even closer to your lungs. One day you're coughing and spluttering because of the taste, the next you're craving one just to take your mind off the cancer. Like smoking, frequently watching a film you simply 'like', such as 30 Days of Night, will result in the kind of appreciation that, over time, just sneaks up on you.

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