Direct-to-video sequels are always going to be saddled with lackluster production values, few locations, and dreadfully boring padding. Sheer stupidity though is a new one. Diora Baird plays a vampire hunter named Amber in this follow-up to 30 Days of Night, subtitled Dark Days.
While infiltrating the vampire’s boat (they’re headed to another Alaskan town for round two), she spies one of the blood suckers pouring a red liquid onto one of the dead creatures and asks, “Is that blood?” No Amber, it’s that other red liquid vampires are so prone to carrying around. Duh.
The movie has already lost most of its audience by this point, dragging itself by boring the audience to death quicker than a vampire could strike. There is a whole sequence in the sewers where the group of four hunters, one a survivor from the first film (now played by Kiele Sanchez instead of Meslissa George), waltz around with lots of swaying flashlights, but not much else. There’s no real tension here, knowing the vampires are down there waiting to strike. The non-stop reminder from Amber that they are not doing this in their normal manner ensures someone will die too. They do.
Apparently Blade wasn’t available to help with this small-scale vampire slaughter, which is a shame. It would have added some energy to the action, the limited budget allowing for little beyond some brief gunfire and a chopped head or two. It is admittedly a fun set up, the idea of various survivors banding together to fend off the growing vampire horde. Unfortunately, that concept needs more locations, more characters, and actual pacing.
It’s easy to pinpoint why Dark Days took three years to come out. The original came out in 2007, one year before the Twilight film hit theaters and re-energized the whole idea of vampires. Sony missed out, and now they’re trying to take advantage of the market, while preying on fans of the original (and graphic novel).
Dark Days was shot digitally, although thankfully it’s the decent kind of digital. Without grain, the image takes on a clear, natural look. The level of general detail is impressive, typically the dead giveaway for digital being the lack thereof. Granted, it’s not consistent. Many of the scenes appear a bit flat and lacking in texture. However, it’s a 50/50 split between the good and the bad, not a terrible ratio for a cheaper direct-to-video effort.
Facial detail impresses from the start, less than a minute in a close-up of Kiele Sanchez producing impressive results. Any close-ups generally perform on the same level, particularly those in decent lighting. Getting into the sewers and dimly lit corridors of the ship, things take a turn for the worse. Smooth surfaces and glassy complexions become apparent. Maybe if they weren’t so strong elsewhere that wouldn’t be the case.
Other issues in the digital domain are not as prevalent with this AVC encode. Video noise is kept to a bare minimum, and motion blur is entirely natural. Smearing is no problem. The transfer to Blu-ray keeps the image firm and consistent, with the sharpness being pleasing enough to satisfy most hi-def followers.
Where the digital does falter are the black levels. Never do they reach a truly rich level, sacrificing the depth in the process. While the whites are kept under control and natural, never blooming or blotching out detail, the blacks never get a chance to crush anything. Because of this, the transfer loses its zest, and the meager, subdued color scheme fails to generate any hint of pop.
Most of the fault with this DTS-HD mix lies with the sound design, low budget for sure. Shotguns carry a miserable low-end, muddy and lacking tightness. Machine guns and other automatic weapons are flat, producing no bass, and barely reach any kind of peak in the high-end. They sound tinny and fake.
The surrounds don’t do much either. They pick up a bit of the echo from the indoor shooting, maybe a discharged clip or two, and that’s about it. Stereo channels carry a small bit of dialogue, and even an incorrectly placed bit of chatter as a couple enters a motel door. The audio is not placed where Sanchez is looking. It should come from the surround right, not the front.
Balance is a nightmare, one moment the action completely overwhelming with abrasive audio, the next becoming so meager as to lack any impact. Dialogue is situated far too low, and doesn’t carry the cleanest fidelity either. Missing that Amber line about the blood is far too important.
A commentary from director (and co-writer) Ben Ketai and producer J.R. Young starts off the extras, followed by Graphic Inspirations, a look at the novel. The Gritty Realism of Dark Days (by no means a truthful title) is your general featurette on the making of the film. Trailers and BD-Live access remain.