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Notes from the back row

Finally, real bloodsuckers



First off, huge thanks to every one of the zombies that made it out for the Zombie Walk. It ruled, but watch out — the days of zombies being the monsters du jour may be tested when 30 Days of Night drops on Friday at the Village 8.

As far as horror ideas go this one, based on a popular comic book, is fantastic. Vampires overrun a town in northern Alaska that goes for 30 days each winter without the sun ever popping over the horizon. The vamps flock to this place for a month-long holiday of heavy gore and murder. It’s like Bloodsuckers club med, all-inclusive.

Josh Hartnett stars as the sheriff who, along with a few poor residents, attempts to hide and wait out the slaughter. Toss in a big-ass blizzard, and some clever sabotages to ensure the town is completely out of touch with the rest of the world, and Hartnett and Co.’s futures aren’t looking too bright.

30 Days of Night has plenty of blood and snow (always a great combo, visually) and watches almost like a horror western in the vein of High Noon or Yojimbo. The gore-filled action is shot pretty tight and with a camera that’s sometimes too shaky and jerky for my tastes but there is an epic aerial shot of a street massacre that is just super duper. Like the comic, the characters aren’t all that fleshed out (Hartnett and his ex have some backstory but that’s about it) so you don’t always care so much when these people die horrible deaths. Actually, it’s surprising when something goes right for these poor sods. Mostly though, it’s nice to see a vampire movie that shows Vamps as savage, evil beasts rather than some kind of Aristocratic old-time society ( Underworld, Interview with a Vampire, etc.) About time we got to see the real bloodsuckers represent.

From a comic book movie to one based on a real book — Into the Wild , adapting the John Krakauer non-fiction book of the same name, stars Emile Hirsch ( Girl Next Door, Alpha Dog) as Chris McCandless, a somewhat privileged American kid who rejects his parents, sister, and trust fund and heads off into the wild country of Alaska, where he is later found dead of starvation in the back of a derelict school bus.

Into the Wild uses some cool multimedia effects, like handwriting coming across the screen, and the photography is pretty good. A bunch of solid actors in the supporting roles (Vince Vaughn is probably the worst) make this a watchable movie, sure to be liked by lots of the people in a town like this.

But the real interesting question in Chris’s story is, was he a heroic youth following in the footsteps of Jack London or Thoreau (both of whom the McCandless character reads and rereads) on a search for some sort of spiritual wisdom? Or was he just a snotty, self-righteous brat with a chip on his shoulder? In the book, Krakauer stays nicely neutral and leaves it up to either interpretation. In this flick director Sean Penn takes a stance, to ultimate detriment. As a youth/rebellion/road journey picture Penn does a pretty good job, and the archetypical mentors and characters he meets along the way are well played and refreshing. But he slips into over-romanticized sap a few times as well. Still an okay movie, but it lacks that openness of opinion that Herzog totally nailed in his documentary Grizzly Man ­— when you aren’t quite sure whether the guy was brilliant, or a complete idiot.

AT VILLAGE 8 Oct. 19-25: Into the Wild; 30 Days of Night; Rendition; The Comebacks; Heartbreak Kid; Kingdom; We Own the Night; Michael Clayton; Elizabeth the Golden.

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