Just imagine: Vampires… wait for it… in the snow!
Alright, so it doesn’t sound very ingenious but the premise does provide a visually striking contrast between the white snow and red blood. And there is a LOT of blood in this movie, the only color in a functionally black-and-white film due to the month-long arctic night. Though it would be heresy to call this McCabe & Mrs. Vampire, I did recall the snowy final scenes of Altman’s film more than once.
Mercifully absent are the Rave Chic vampires of Blade and the Victorian Chic vampires of Underworld. More Nosferatu than Bela Lugosi, these are the best designed vampires I’ve seen on screen in ten years, with maws lined with shark-teeth that leave a mess rather than polite puncture wounds. Danny Huston, an inspired casting choice as the chief vampire, takes a few cues from Peter Stormare’s Satan in Constantine, but it’s a tie between his mugging underling Andrew Stehlin and the human Ben Foster for who chews the most scenery.
Collectively these vampires behave more like Boyle’s zombies than their celluloid predecessors: fast, furious, and interested in their victims only as food rather than objects of sexual subtext. Before I saw the movie I was feeling a little down for various reasons but afterwords all I could think about was how glad I am vampires don’t exist.
Josh Hartnett is more interesting than he is in The Black Dahlia, which isn’t saying much, but as soon as his marriage trouble with Camilla Rhodes — I mean Melissa George — is established early on, the trajectory of their relationship arc is immediately obvious (didn’t I just see this in Vacancy?). The first-act tour of key locations in the town scream “guess what’s going to happen here later?” yet the movie still managed to surprise me so I’m glad I hadn’t read the graphic novel on which it was based.
There are several brief but excellent action moments that are accentuated by the director’s flipbook style of fast motion carried over from Hard Candy. But the movie’s primarily fault is its failure to evoke the marathon length of the title effectively. “Action movie” is probably inconsistent with “one month’s duration” and the movie felt like it took place within three hours rather than thirty days despite the intermittent “Day 17”-type subtitles. It’s probably an impossible task for a two-hour movie without making it intentionally boring.
However, the best aspect of the movie is its focus on the moral toll inflicted on those forced to fight vampires (or zombies for that matter). Through no fault of oneself it may initiate a descent that cannot be halted. Though perhaps momentarily surprising, the movie’s final act of heroism is utterly inevitable. Fortune does not necessarily favor the brave, sometimes she punishes them.