What happens when the sun isn’t there to drive away the creatures of the night?
Before directing the films Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Nightmare Cinema, and the new horror movie Dark Harvest set to release this September 2022, David Slade directed the vampire flick 30 Days of Night and sought to answer this question.
30 Days of Night features a group of ancient vampires led by Marlow (Danny Huston) descending upon an Alaskan town where once a year, the sun sets and doesn’t rise again for 30 days. The story follows a band of survivors, including the town’s sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett), and his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George), as they try to elude the vampires in the endless night.
Fun Fact: The real town experiences darkness much longer than its cinematic counterpart. Utqiagvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow) has no sunlight for roughly 65 days, from mid-November to mid-January.
This Ghost House Pictures film premiered on October 19th, 2007, and was nominated for 14 different awards. The film was quickly overshadowed, though, as 2007/2008 saw the release of numerous films still lauded today, including but not limited to: I am Legend, 1408, The Mist, Hostel II, and Rob Zombie’s Halloween, among many others.
Like three of the films listed above, which were adapted from books, 30 Days of Night first existed as reading material, though in this case, it was a mini comic book series.
The film depicts vampires in a fantastically terrifying manner, keeping viewers plastered to their seats until the end, which then sees viewers leaving those seats to get up and yell at the TV. (Or is that just me?)
Putting the “Blood” in Bloodsuckers
The vampires begin to rack up a body count within the town as soon as they arrive. They drink blood as traditional vampires do but have to remove their victims’ heads, so they don’t transform into vampires themselves after being bitten. This clause saw the vampires leave a murderous bloodbath across the entire town. However, there is much more to the vampires than the stealthy carnage they deliver.
The type of vampire presented in 30 Days of Night is my favorite variety. They are intelligent and use an ancient language to communicate (though they speak in a fictional language). They have the elegance and poise that society has come to associate with vampires while simultaneously acting as viciously violent predators. Moreover, these vampires look the part. They are not romanticized or gorgeous; instead, the movie shows that turning into a vampire sees a horrific transformation take place. The face will transform, the teeth will grow sharper, and the eyes will turn black.
This appearance was the case for all but the leader of the vampires, Marlow. He looks more human than his vampire counterparts (but more on that later).
Fun Fact: The film drew some inspiration from Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot as the antagonist was named Barlow.
How 30 Days of Night Ends
What starts as a great movie gets frustrating fast. The town is burning down, and the film’s climax approaches as Stella calls Eben to let him know she’s trapped. Thinking quickly, he injects himself with a dead vampire’s blood. Planning on having just long enough to fight the vampires once and for all before turning into a mindless bloodsucker himself, he saves the day. Now that part, I will allow.
The hero becoming the enemy to defeat the enemy is a terrific trope. I will even overlook that, given Marlow’s leadership role and different appearance, killing him did not kill the other vampires as I had expected.
However, it is with Eben Oleson’s death that the film goes wrong. Not because he dies, though. All hail the conquering hero who sacrificed his own life to save his ex-wife’s life. Obviously, he cannot be allowed to live where he will join up with his other vampire buddies and massacre more unsuspecting towns. However, it is the way that he dies that grinds my gears.
He was not offered the swift, humane death given to much of the vampire squad that descended upon the Alaskan town, e.g., a quick bullet to the head. Instead, he gets slowly, painfully disintegrated to dust by the sunlight as Stella holds him, charring in her hands. It made for a memorable ending, but ouch. He seriously got the short end of the stick.
And for what? To save the woman who wasn’t that into him anyway. She only reached out to him when she needed something from him; he infected himself to save her, and then she couldn’t even give him the dignity of a decent death.
Don’t get me wrong. Eben Oleson choosing to be a hero does not make Stella obligated to give him her love. But does it make her obligated to say, “Hey, you sacrificed yourself to save me. Let me at least spare you the agony of what has to be the most excruciating death of all time’? I believe so.
But I suppose nice guys finish last… or get slowly obliterated by the sun.
All in all, the film is a lot of fun. Eben Oleson was unfortunately doomed to a fate of unrequited love and ashes, but the vampires put on one hell of a show. Fifteen years later (has it really been that long?), it’s still one of my favorite vampire movies.
Do you agree with the ending? Sound off in the comments below!
The Entire ‘Saw’ Franchise Ranked
I know we are drowning in Saw content as we prepare for a tenth installment. It has been almost 20 years of traps, plot twists, confusion, and commitment to this chaotic franchise. Like many other horror nerds, I did a marathon to ensure I am over-prepared for the new movie. Like any other franchise sitting at 9 entries, it has had highs and lows. I think we should all share our rankings, and I’ll go first.
Ranking Every Saw Movie From Worst to Best
9. Saw 3D (Saw: The Final Chapter) (2010)
Hoffman and Jill battle it out for Jigsaw’s legacy. Meanwhile, a man who lied about surviving Jigsaw is forced to play the game. This is the only movie in the series I have nothing nice to say about. They wasted Cary Elwes time. This movie is so focused on making sure things are flying toward the screen that it forgets what people come to the franchise for. On the bright side, it puts an end to Hoffman and Jill’s tenure in the series. Even though its ending is ridiculous with him popping out of a bag in the morgue and walking through the police station like the Terminator.
8. Spiral (From the Book Of Saw) (2021)
Where You Can Watch: Hulu
This standalone film sees someone new follow in John Kramer’s footsteps. I love Max Minghella, Samuel L. Jackson, and the 21 Savage song on the soundtrack. Seeing Jackson in a trap is also really cool. However, there’s not much else memorable about this one. The plot is predictable, our lead seems bored, and it has the biggest police procedural vibes of any movie in this franchise. While many other films walked the fine line between ACAB and CSI: Jigsaw, this one feels like a Michael Bay cop thriller from the 90s.
7. Jigsaw (2017)
When bodies start piling up 10 years after Jigsaw’s reign ended, police suspect a copycat killer is terrorizing the city. This one tries to expand on Jigsaw’s cult, but Logan isn’t interesting or exciting. It also leaves me wondering why John would forgive the med student who mislabeled his test results (which led to him not getting diagnosed early enough to survive his cancer) but continue to punish everyone else for lesser offenses. I don’t care for any of the people (or their boring secrets) who are in the barn. This one forgets what makes the traps exciting by introducing lasers and a weird spiral-shaped blade inside of a funnel. A funnel that is specifically made to kill Mitch because John blames him for his nephew’s death.
6. Saw V (2008)
Everyone thinks Hoffman is a hero aside from Agent Strahm, who believes he was assisting Jigsaw. This one frustrates me because we open with the man that killed Hoffman’s sister in a trap. However, none of the millions of detectives in this town investigates that odd coincidence. It also sets us up to see Strahm and Hoffman battle, but instead, we watch Strahm find clues to prove what he accused Hoffman of. Evidence that he does nothing with except stand next to as he dramatically reiterates what he said to Hoffman’s face at the top of the movie. I am also very annoyed with the five people stuck in Jigsaw’s house of torture. None of them were written to have common sense.
5. Saw IV (2007)
Lieutenant Rigg is surprised to discover that he must now play the game to save his colleagues. This one gets major bonus points for opening with Jigsaw’s autopsy. It is a solid way to confirm that he’s really dead, and there will be no Scooby-Doo shenanigans. When they crack open his abdomen to discover another tape in his stomach, I am equally impressed and disgusted. I feel like we got too much of John’s backstory. However, I enjoy following Rigg as he embarks on this demented scavenger hunt across the city. This one also gets cooler each rewatch because you catch more lines that make it obvious Hoffman is up to dastardly deeds.
4. Saw VI (2009)
Now that Hoffman has killed and framed Agent Strahm, he must finish carrying out Jigsaw’s wishes, which includes putting an insurance man through a gruesome test. This movie thinks Jill and Hoffman are interesting characters, but they do nothing for me. It even wastes the reveal that Perez is alive by giving her and two other people the most uninspired and avoidable deaths of the franchise. However, seeing Jigsaw’s revenge on William (the insurance guy we hate) is fun. I love watching him get forced to choose who lives and dies among his colleagues after sentencing so many strangers to death over the years.
3. Saw II (2005)
The police are racing the clock to save 8 people that Jigsaw has trapped in a house. I love this one because it shows us that John Kramer is really on another level. Do you remember the first time your jaw dropped when you found out the footage of the people trapped in a house was pre-recorded? Do you remember screaming when the safe opened and we discovered Detective Matthews’ son had been with them the whole time? Let’s not forget this is also when we realize Amanda is in the cult of Jigsaw. No other movie in the franchise has so many reveals stacked on top of each other. Also, the needle pit scene still lives rent-free in so many of our minds today.
2. Saw III (2006)
Jigsaw kidnaps a doctor for an unorthodox surgery as he and Amanda put a man through a gruesome test. This one dares to kill Jigsaw and then ends on a cliffhanger. That’s the boldest thing I have seen from the third installment of a franchise since Halloween III: Season Of The Witch forgot we were there for Michael Myers. Jeff and Lynn are interesting (even if their marriage is a predictable plot twist), but the sequence of deaths that are ignited when they reunite is a thing of art. Finding out how far Jigsaw will go to test those closest to him is also a thing of beauty and what the fuckery.
1. Saw (2004)
Two strangers wake up in a room only to discover they are about to play a very sadistic game. While we have some fun traps, gruesome kills, and good times with some of the sequels, nothing has ever fully captured the feeling of the first movie. Give me Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell chained in the dirtiest room on Earth any day. This is the one that kept me on the edge of my seat. The tension was palpable as we all waited for the inevitable saw to finally get used. This one effortlessly serves us all the stress, drama, and chaos that many of the sequels struggle with. It also forever changed what my generation thought we knew about body horror.
It Came From Streaming: Hispanic Heritage Month
On October 5th, 2020, my best friend Jonny and I started a podcast, ¡Uy Que Horror! A Latinx Horror Movie Podcast. It focused on the expansive world of Latin American horror films. Three years later, we have accrued over 150 episodes. This means we’ve watched over 150 movies (holy shit) all coming from a Latin American country, starring a Latinx person, or directed by a Latinx person. Does that make us horror experts? Film experts? Latin America experts? I’d love to be humble and say no, but I’m a Taurean only child raised by a Virgo dad, so I say YES. Lucky you, Jonny and I have used said expertise to compile a list of Latin American horror movies you should watch. After all, Latinx Heritage Month and Spooky Season (the most perfect double feature you could ask for) is right around the corner.
Best Movies to Stream During Hispanic Heritage Month
In my list, you’ll find the things I enjoy most in horror: fabulous outfits, goop and glop, weird plots, feelings and emotions, PERFORMANCES, silly goofs, and wrestling (Yes, Santo is on the list). So, who’s got two thumbs, is Latina, loves a spooky time, and has a list of awesome Latine horror movies you can watch? THIS GUY. *points two thumbs to herself*.
Mas Negro Que La Noche (1975)
HOLY SHIT DO I LOVE CARLOS ENRIQUE TABOADA (CET). The man knows how to tell a classic ghost story. Do yourself a solid and watch as many of his movies as possible (Veneno Para Las Hadas and Hasta el Viento Tiene Miedo are high up on the list for me too). Mas Negro que la Noche has the best stuff CET has to offer: independent women wearing FABULOUS 70s outfits and hair, an inherited spooky old house that comes with a black cat, and an ominous feeling that someone is watching you. It made me want to put on a mini skirt, style my hair a la Brigitte Bardot, and search a dark library on a stormy night.
Mas Negro Que La Noche (Darker Than Night) is streaming on Shudder.
Los Parecidos (2016)
I was never a Twilight Zone Girly, but man, do I love a weirdo movie, and Los Parecidos is a big ol’ weirdo that feels like it came right out of Rod Serling’s brain. I love that it’s basically a bottle film, held in a bus station plagued by a torrential downpour for most of the film’s duration. We have a little bit of everything: strange phenomena, a creepy kid, a little Mexican history, and it just looks so good. I don’t want to say too much because it’s SO weird that it would take away from the bizarre discoveries you’ll get as a viewer. Should I be watching The Twilight Zone?!
Los Parecidos (The Similars) is streaming on Screambox.
Mangue Negro (2008)
The feature film directorial debut by the Tom Zavini of Brazil, Mangue Negro is a SLOPFEST. This low-budget wonder feels incredibly Brazilian to me (I lived there for 15 years, so it hits me right in the feels). Can you tell this is Rodrigo Aragão’s first movie? Sure! But that’s what makes it great! The practical effects are delightful and gory and gloopy. Plus, it’s a unique take on the zombie movie, my favorite genre in horror, and its loving references to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead make me happy. GOOP AND GLOP FOREVER!
Mangue Negro is streaming on Plex.
When I’m not watching horror, I’m probably having a snack to refuel and then taking a breather with some animation. I’m a sucker for stop motion, and this Chilean stop motion short film checks both my boxes. Over on the podcast, Jonny and I have discovered that Chilean horror cinema can be a pretty tough watch because it’s often based on the VERY REAL terror brought on by the garbage person that was Pinochet and his monstrous regime. Bestia is set during that troubling time in Chile, but it focuses on a woman known to torture people in unspeakable ways. The film looks phenomenal, and the stop motion never dilutes the horror and shock you feel.
Pro tip: Have a feel-good movie on hand after it ends.
Bestia is streaming on Vimeo.
As Boas Maneiras (2017)
To quote Mariah Carey, “YOU’ve got me feeling emotions!” This movie was a revelation for me. It’s a dark fantasy horror film with musical elements, a small animated segment, gay stuff, and as a cherry on top, werewolves! But if you’re a Sensitive Sally like me, who cries at the drop of a hat, bring a box o’ tissues. The lead actresses in this Brazilian film are ACTING, and they are fabulous. It’s a beautiful fable that’ll have you wanting to hug your mom after.
As Boas Maneiras (Good Manners) is streaming on Tubi.
El Esqueleto de la Sra Morales (1960)
Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema is unparalleled. We should all be watching those gorgeous movies at all times. The drama! The looks! The language! Jonny and I always say, “You can eat it with a spoon”. And this movie has all of that. A puritanical, bitter wife drives a sweet, good-natured taxidermist to murder. Simple right? But every scene is a meal, every moment is delivered with gusto, and you’ll never hate a villain more. Dessert please!
El Esqueleto de la Sra Morales (The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales) is streaming on Amazon Prime/Mubi.
Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro (1962)
I end this list with the hero we all know and love, Santo El Enmascarado de Plata. There are a few horror-themed Santo movies (he’s spanned all film genres), and we’ve covered some of them on the podcast (Vs Los Monstruos and Vs Las Momias de Guanajuato). But Santo vs Las Mujeres Vampiro is a campy, vampy time. Chock full of goofs, awesome luchador fights, and 60s fabulousness, our hero has to save a girl from being seduced by a coven of lady vampires who want to marry her off to the devil. I mean, doesn’t that sound great?! Throw in some flying elbows and the coolest cars you’ve seen, and you got yourself one hell of a good time. I highly recommend playing this and any other horror-based Santo movie in the background of your Halloween party. A conversation starter for sure.
Check out part 2 (coming soon) for Jonny’s list of favorite Latinx horror movies! Then pop on over to ¡Uy Que Horror! on your favorite podcasting platform (subscribe!). We talk about so many more Latin American movies for you to watch: good, bad, and VERY bad. If it’s Latinx horror, Jonny and Aileen will watch it.
Feliz Latinx Heritage Month y Spooky Season a todxs! ¡Adios!