Horror sequels that skip theaters and go straight to DVD have a bad reputation, and '30 Days of Night: Dark Days' is a good example of why that is. Its predecessor, one of the better thrillers of 2007, made good use of a terrific premise -- vampires descend on an Alaskan town where the sun doesn't rise for an entire month -- and delivered tension, scares, and sufficient gore, all despite the limitation of having Josh Hartnett as its leading man. In contrast, 'Dark Days' is a cheap-looking cheesefest that wastes the few good ideas it has.
Stella Oleson is a survivor from the first film who used to be Melissa George but is Kiele Sanchez now. She has left Alaska and moved to perpetually sunny Los Angeles, where she spends her time trying to spread the word about what happened to the town of Barrow. No one believes her, of course, and the government made sure no evidence escaped. (Small villages being wiped out by vampires rank high on the FBI's "must cover up" list.) Still, Stella gives public lectures that are well attended by people who want to laugh at a crazy lady.
There is significantly less laughter when some vampires show up at one of these speeches, however! That scene contains one of the movie's aforementioned few good ideas. At this point, while the movie isn't exactly dazzling, it's at least innocuous and watchable.
This does not last, as the film devolves into a disappointing formula that would barely merit a two-part episode on any of the current vampire-themed TV shows. Stella is approached by a group of fellow vampire-attack survivors eager to get revenge by destroying the vampire queen, Lilith (an unwittingly campy Mia Kirshner), who is rumored to be in L.A., probably to audition for 'True Blood.' This crew includes Harold Perrineau, Diora Baird, and Rhys Coiro, one of whom will later be involved in a sex scene that is the very definition of the term "obligatory for a straight-to-DVD movie." Stella joins the gang in implementing their anti-vampire agenda.
Also present: an FBI agent (Troy Ruptash) whose desire to become a vampire approaches Bella Swan levels, and Dane (Ben Cotton), a vamp who managed not to lose his soul when he was turned, rendering him useful to the good guys as long as he doesn't have sex with Buffy (or something).
This is the kind of movie where, when someone asks the non-murderous vampire Dane how he feeds, rather than simply saying he gets blood from a blood bank, he silently walks to the refrigerator, pulls out a bag of it, pours himself a glass, and drinks it. Why must vampires be so theatrical? Just answer the stupid question, Dane. (Oh, and FOR SURE he always uses a glass instead of drinking straight from the bag. Way to put on airs just because you have company.)
The film is based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, and adapted for the screen by Niles and director Ben Ketai. I haven't read the 'Dark Days' book, but if it successfully maintained the stylishly eerie tone of its predecessor, then the movie version is not faithful to it. The dialogue is corny, the performances are phoned in. Furthermore, I don't know what kind of budget Ketai had to work with, but the sets look cheap, the gore effects are almost embarrassingly unconvincing, and the film uses what is unquestionably the wateriest fake blood I've ever seen. Gallons of it, too. But it matches the rest of the movie: thin, weak, and a poor substitute for the original.