PictureWell, folks, this is impressive and no mistake. Although not the most overtly colourful of films to test your system with, 30 Days Of Night is still absolutely gorgeous to look at in 1080p. With its 2.40:1 image encoded with MPEG-4, this transfer is nothing short of spectacular.
The aerial view of the carnage taking place on the streets below is simply fantastic. What is already destined to be a classic shot - the camera tracking dispassionately overhead as literally all hell breaks loose down below - is now presented in such a way that it positively invites to repeat the scene over and over again, pause it and study it and simply attempt to take in the gory details splashed all over the nice wide image. Scuttling figures amidst the stark white, well-delineated buildings framing the action, splashy pools of blood spreading out over the snow, sharp little flurries of flame from shotgun blasts and the odd curl of smoke - all beautifully and painstakingly rendered with precision and clarity. Detail on faces - the snow-flakes littering Hartnett for example, or the smears of blood on Marlow's face or the wicked point on the vamps' fangs - is amazingly well presented. Some interiors such as the attic or the store somehow lack this same level of clarity for objects set just a little way off, though this could well be something to do with the subdued lighting, so may not be a concern.
Contrast is absolutely impeccable - and, let's be blunt about this, it would have to be wouldn't it? But the separation between light and dark, white-out and black shadow is stark, sharp and consistent. There is no banding in the extreme white ice-fields that I could see and such visual high-ends do not suffer from glaring either. Blacks are equally strong and, since much of the film is plunged into darkness, the transfer holds up with the various shades of gloom splendidly. Colours are naturalistic. The greens of Eben's Sheriff coat, the red of Stella's parka, the silvery-grey of the machinery in the turbine-room such as the infamous “Muffin Muncher”, and the orange of the flames at the end all have a realistic hue. This is certainly not the bright and garish world that you would expect from a comic book adaptation. Indeed, the only really stand-out colour is of - you guessed it - the copious blood on show. But then again, even here the effect is hardly extravagant. Obviously when the stuff is splashed liberally over the crisp white snow it positively leaps out at you, but a lot of the time it is being flung about it looks very dark, the vampires, for instance, have blood that is virtually black.
The print does have some grain in it, though this is often unnoticeable and really only becomes visible on some darker portions of the picture or, more obviously, against the snowy wastes seen during the introduction set in the sunlight. This grain is still very filmic and does not present a problem. On the downside is a small amount of edge enhancement that exists and becomes a little more apparent when objects and characters are seen against the great big white or cast against the glow of the dwindling sunlight near the start. But this did not really bother me at all and should not pose much of a detriment to anybody else either. I also noticed some vague motion drag during one or two of Slade's stylish sped-up, frame-jumping vamp-attacks, but, again, this was slight and I was, when all said and done, looking for such things in the first place. I should mention that a fellow viewer noticed nothing detrimental at all and thought that the picture was absolutely phenomenal from start to finish.
SoundIf the image quality was something to brag about, wait until you hear what its Dolby TrueHD track can do.
Although I have heard louder, more intense tracks, this is one supremely well-engineered and mean mutha of a mix in its own right. Almost from the word go, you are thrust into the dark and cold heart of the story and the environment in which it is set. Designed with full-speaker use in mind all along, the film is blessed by a uniquely galvanising sense of total immersion that will have the Alaskan winds howling around you, gut-wrenching screams and snarls roaring right across the soundfield, weighty impacts crunching physically within the room, superb steerage making considerable use of whip-around effects and a marvellously convincing application of ambience and discrete natural sounds to keep the atmospherics topped-up almost constantly. Voices are highly directional and add superbly to the spatial dynamics of the track. Listen out for the grating of steel doors that disturb Gus, the old guy at the communication building near the start. They occur somewhere in the building, or outside of it, and the track marvellously registers this off-camera effect with unsettling placement. The vamps encircling him and snarling as they move around is also very well done and has hisses and snarls slipping out from the speakers in tandem with their positions, effectively putting us in his place.
At the cinema, this was a pretty aggressive aural experience, but I wasn't as affected by it there nearly so much as I was in my own living room. The bass is much more emphatic and supplies epic foundation to the crashing vehicles, the solid thumping of the shotguns and the multiple slash and bite, smack and tumble set-pieces. Finite detail is acutely placed around the environment and the sense of space is wonderfully achieved with a distant shutter banging or the sounds of a woman being used as bait as she trudges through the street. The big explosion when a box of dynamite goes up has been deliberately muted for stylistic purposes, although the sound of the splintering windows is still clear and well-steered. But just feel the spread and reach of the bass when Eben inspects the Muffin Muncher machine early on - there is some power here! And , naturally, Brian Reitzell's thunderous score is given a hugely in-your-face presence in the mix. His percussive stingers really punch out of the track and his continually strange and wacky effects pounding insistently throughout the film.
The only thing that stops this getting a full 10 out of 10 (and, boy, do I suddenly wish we could award half-marks, too) is that during some of the more extreme cases of aggressive skirmishes, individual effects seem slightly drowned by the insistent bass. This is just a minor caveat, however, but one that reveals the sound design isn't quite as balanced as it could be. But, unofficially, this gets a thoroughly exciting 9 and a half out of 10. In a word - WOW!
ExtrasWell, at least there has been some effort made with this release, but its overall worth is a little debateable. First of all the audio commentary with stars Josh Hartnett and Melissa George and the film's producer Robert (The Evil Dead) Tapert is a bit lacklustre and disappointing. Tapert provides the lion's share of the chat, with Hartnett and George seemingly there just to kill time. The producer knows his stuff, though and sets about delivering a treatise on what Slade had in mind for the film and how it would be adapted from the already highly thought of comic books. But Slade's absence is keenly felt and it often feels as though Tapert is standing in for him. As a huge fan of movie soundtracks I also find it infuriating that Tapert refers to a featurette on the scoring process for 30 Days Of Night which isn't actually on the disc. Having bought the highly unusual soundtrack already I would have loved to have heard how it was put together and what motivated composer Brian Reitzell's eclectic and disturbing choices of instrumentation. As it stands, this is a commentary that is more one to dip into throughout the movie than to actually set time aside for.
The Making Of 30 Days Of Night is split into eight smaller featurettes that last with a Play All Option , in total, for around fifty minutes. The design of these featurettes is jokey and fast-paced, fast-cut and definitely in an MTV mindset of “we aren't taking this thing seriously, so why should you?” But, amongst all this, you will find much of value, even if it is delivered at a totally breakneck pace.
Pre-Production takes us through some script meetings and we are introduced to Slade, comic-creator Steve Niles and Robert Tapert. Locations are discussed and scouted and ideas for the story adaptation are breezed through. In Building Barrow we get to see how the crew set about designing and constructing the huge set in which the story would take place and the intensive job of then covering it with fake snow. Then, in The Look, we meet DOP Jo Willems as he discusses what lenses the movie will require - 35mm film or HD video - and how the production should be lit. We also see some storyboards and tests and learn about the colouring treatment that the film will ultimately undergo - the darken the blacks and lighten the whites etc.
This all continues into the much more fun stuff with Blood, Guts, & the Nasty #@$&! That takes a brief - but entertaining - look at the wonderful prosthetic effects and gory gags that the film employs in abundance. Slade has to choose the appropriate blood colours and mixtures for the humans and the vampires and we discover the fun to be had from severing heads and biting throats out. Some of the more notorious FX are discussed - such as the decapitation of the little girl vampire - and some shots are literally strewn with body-parts. Danny Huston makes an appearance here, marking the first glimpse of any of the actual stars of the film so far.
A six-minute section on Stunts reveals the conception, training and execution of several key action set-pieces - the first vamp plunging through a window, a precarious rooftop leap, some wire-work assisted bounding for the vampire-girl and how to hang onto the roof of a speeding vehicle in snow and wind. We are also shown the work that went into the Trencher/chainsaw massacre. Pretty cool but, again, could have done with being longer.
In the Vampire segment, Slade, Niles and other members of the creative team speak about how they wanted their vampires to behave, but the real bonus of this featurette is seeing the cast train and rehearse their predatory moves. There is great footage of them performing their attacks and even a cool croaky-roar class. Huston, Hartnett and Melissa George show up as well to talk about the vamps' look.
30 Days Of Night Shoots does exactly what it says on the tin and chronicles the pain and embuggerance of having to work on set from 6pm to 6am for a month solid. This takes a very comical approach to the unpleasant and decidedly unpopular schedule, though much of the attitudes revealed are probably quite authentic. And in Casting, we hear how the actors were brought on-board and how New Zealand has such a unique heritage of monster-performers from the likes of The Lord Of The Rings. Each of the main stars gets to have their say and we even see footage of the awesome Ben Foster in action. He fastened a very tight clamp on his toe to help him find the necessary pain for the scene when Eben shoots him - that's suffering for you art, isn't it?
As well the film's theatrical trailer and some for the likes of Sleuth, The Messengers and Walk Hard: Dewey Cox Story, we get a photo gallery called 30 Images Of Night: Graphic Novel To Film Comparison which is a variable-speed slide-show of the hyper-stylised comic-book plates with corresponding stills from the movie. Nice.
So, whilst not exactly the most comprehensive or serious look at the making of a film, this selection of featurettes is still fairly entertaining. The commentary lacks meat though, and I would have liked more actual input from the stars of the film.
VerdictI may still have some slight misgivings about the film - that sagging and disjointed middle section in particular - but 30 Days Of Night remains a very welcome shot in the arm for horror fans. Not afraid to be savage, it paints a thoroughly grim and nihilistic vision across the white canvas in gloriously deep red. It wants to be unforgiving and relentless and, for the most part, it succeeds. But with a clan of vamps that desperately need more flesh on their bones, the overall menace still becomes a law of diminishing returns that may leave you just shrugging with indifference come the finale. This still packs a punch, though, with numerous set-pieces and a superb sense of atmosphere and chilling environment.
The package, despite its numerous making of featurettes, still feels a little threadbare and with a commentary that meanders about without any real bite, could certainly have been better. But what really makes this a release that should have you salivating is the superlative AV quality. Both the picture and audio of this transfer are tremendous, with the TrueHD being an amazing tour de force. Recommended for horror fans ... but perhaps not their neighbours, if you know what I mean.
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