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Horror fans should enjoy Foster, gore in "30 Days of Night"

Vampires!

That's not as scary as it should be, right? Vampires want to drink your blood and you need your blood to continue not being dead, yet they're just not that threatening. I could, I think, kick a vampire's ass, if only because he'd be too worried about getting mud on his frilly cravat to stop me from knocking out his pointy teeth.

They need someone to resurrect their image. They're the princes ofthe undead! They live forever, with the speed and strength of severalpanthers. Enough with the vampires who shed single tears over theennui of their own immortality as they learn about life and love andloss, I want to see the ones so bloodthirsty they'd make Vlad theImpaler proud.

"30 Days of Night," adapted from the graphic novel of the same name,is definitely down with the animal side of vampires. Set in Barrow, Alaska, a town so far north the sun doesn't rise for 30 straight days of winter, its 150-odd permanent residents are busy enough battening down the hatches without the string of vandalism and sled dog-killings that crops up in the waning time before night falls.

In the course of sheriff Josh Hartnett's investigation, he hauls in Ben Foster, a drifter saddled with all kinds of portentous dialogue about how everyone in town's about to be killed. And for a crazy person, Foster's remarkably well informed -- within a couple hours, the power's gone out all through town, savaged corpses are showing up, and oh yeah, vampires are running wild in the streets.

Unable to fight back, Hartnett, his estranged wife Melissa George, and a handful of other townsfolk hole up for the long wait till the sun comes back. The vampires may be undead supermen who look like they've had their heads pinched in vises and apparently have never heard of napkins, but the humans know the Alaskan winter, and if there's to be a siege, they might just last it out.

Not without a lot of them dying, though. Man, is "30 Days of Night" bloody, and shot and composed by director David Slade in a way that must mirror the graphic novel, all that red really stands out in a landscape of white, black, and gray. The story's a simple one, too, less concerned with who and what the vampires are than the simple fact they're here and they're hungry.

That stripped-down nature helps and hurts. Without all the baroque and erotic baggage that tends to surround vampires, they're unusually creepy, but their plan is confused at best, to the point where it's unclear why attacking Barrow is such a fantastic plan. A month-long lunch uninterrupted by the sun's lethal rays is a fine idea, so kudos to whichever vampire came up with that one, but boo to their half-assed attempts to root out the survivors. I really think a month is more than enough time to get your act together and mount a house-to-house search, but I guess when you live for eternity you figure you can always do it next century, because the movie's sense of tension flags once the days start skipping forward.

"30 Days of Night" makes use of its monster-movie trappings by showing Hartnett's protective man of action has his own dark and predatory side, too, but Hartnett's more a poor man's Keanu Reeves than a De Niro or even a Damon. The other characters are mostly broad types; at least Foster gets some weirdness into his role as a ranting harbinger of doom, proving yet again the need to cast him in approximately every movie there is and thusly making all our lives a little brighter.

Your personal levels of bloodlust, monsterlust, and ability to get spooked by excellently shot, blizzardy perma-night are going to determine whether "30 Days of Night" has enough going for it to overcome its spotty pacing and a bare plot that drops some of the original source's most important turns. For me, a bold and dark ending capped a movie that's several miles from great, but was visually memorable and a welcome return to the days when vampires were more about guzzling blood than sexy depression.

Grade: B

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