You don’t often expect to get genuinely frightened reading a comic book. Well, I didn’t. So you can stop pointing and laughing. Jerk.
But I did get, let’s say… overly nervous… reading the graphic novel (i.e., comic book on steroids) 30 Days of Night, the brilliant book by writer Steve Niles and artist Ben Templesmith.
The book isn’t just brilliant because I say it is. (Although that should be good enough for you, shouldn’t it.) It’s been enough of a smash hit to spawn a glut of stories set in the 30 Days of Night universe, and will be released as a Major Motion Picture in October by Sony Films.
Here’s the premise: Vampires converge on the small, remote town of Barrow, Alaska, in the beginning of winter, when darkness lasts for a month. Imagine a group of stoned-out hipsters converging on the only 24-hour McDonalds in town at 1am, and you get an inkling of the feeding frenzy that ensues. Bad news if you’re the food.
The images and trailer released for the movie suggest that the producers were quite loyal to the source material in the look and tone of the film. (So, about par for the course, considering many recent graphic novel adaptations like Sin City and 300.)
Even the jagged font used on the movie’s Web site is the same used by letterist Robbie Robins to represent the voices of vampires in the book.
Certainly, the trailer looks wicked-cool. Even if the movie stays true to the book, however, there are still several distinct opportunities for the whole thing to get mucked up. Here’s five of them.
A PG-13 rating. The graphic novel is decidedly rated “R”, thanks to tart language and gory images. Some of the drawings are just obscure enough to leave most of the action to the imagination (thereby increasing the sense of dread), but several are quite explicit. I’m looking at you, Mr. Climax of the Story Scene.
The movie hasn’t been rated by the MPAA, yet. Hopefully the filmmakers won’t be scared off by the the recent declining performance of R-rated horror flicks. Let’s hope that the adaptation of 300 is a guidepost. The film needs the latitude of an “R” to exercise the devices found in the book… fuzzy scenes that imply indescribable horrors, keeping the audience carefully fixated on the action, and explicit gore that punches up dramatic impact.
Plus, a horror movie without the F-bomb is like Die Hard without “Yipee-ki-yay-mother…” Oh, wait.
Lead actor Josh Hartnett needing to emote. Perhaps you remember Josh Hartnett from his role as the stone-faced assassin in Sin City. He really nailed the part of an emotionless automaton, didn’t he? Let’s hope he can harken back to his days in acting classes when they practiced “frightened” and “tired and hungry” and “angry” and “loving.” That’s a hell of a lot of emotion to cram into one movie for an actor who seems to pick one emotion (give or take) per role.
Josh Hartnett, doing “violently agitated.” Also, “sad.”
A happier ending. Without giving anything away… the ending of the book is the epitome of bittersweet. A small part of me (not to be mistaken with the petty part of me) worries that reactions from test audiences will result in a movie that’s heavy on the “sweet” and not so much on the “bitter.” Don’t muck with the beauty of the story, Hollywood, ok? Ok?
Too much directorial artistic license. After seeing Hard Candy, I’ve got a lot of faith in director David Slade. Which is great, because the source material isn’t going to give him enough to fill ninety minutes of screen time. He’s going to need to “fill in the blanks” between the scenes in the book. For example, in the book, we don’t see a survivor of the initial attacks venture back into the town from his hiding place, but we know his motivation and afterwards we see the serious ramifications of his little trip. Ten American dollars says the movie will address this gap in the action. And there are several other instances like that. Simple enough… but every chance to create a scene that’s not based on the source material is a chance to harm the story.
Suspension of disbelief is easier in comic books than it is in movies. [Mild spoiler alert.] Hypothetically, if you had the chance to draw blood from a vampire with a syringe you had just laying around, would you do it? What? What’s that? Your first inclination would be to kill the living shit out of that vampire and/or vacate the immediate vicinity of said vampire? You and me both, brother-man. Certain tenuous plot points in the book are going to become a lot more thin on the screen, unless they’re handled… just… so.