30 Days of Night is a 2007 horror film. On one level it is the horrific story of an isolated Alaskan town besieged by vampires during a month-long darkness; on another level it is a sad story of a man, emotionally isolated from those around him, besieged by despair during a period of depression, and a testament to the hopelessness of life without God.
Vampire films are often ripe for religious interpretation. Vampirism is a twisted reflection, or cruel mockery, of salvation. Just as drinking the blood of Christ in the Eucharistic meal grants eternal life, so too does the vampire live immortal by consuming blood. Just as our eternal, heavenly bodies will be perfect, the vampire is often portrayed as stronger, faster, and more beautiful than mortals.
Vampirism is a flawed, deviant form, though, anti-salvation rather than salvation, a curse rather than a blessing. Its inferiority is evident in the vampires’ weaknesses. A vampire recoils at the sight of the crucifix, and may be burned by its touch. A vampire may be burned or killed by exposure to sunlight, sun symbolizing God’s love and sun rises symbolizing the resurrection. A vampire may be killed with a wooden stake to the heart which, and I acknowledge that this may seem a stretch, I have always thought called to mind the wood of the cross.
In “30 Days of Night”, Eben is a man who has lost hope and given up. He and his wife are splitting up, and, though he clearly still loves her, he is not making an attempt at winning her back. He cannot see a way through his despair. He has no faith and no hope for salvation.
The vampires who attack the town are likewise hopeless. The lead vampire is named Marlow, calling to mind famous English playwright Christopher Marlowe, atheist and author of “Doctor Faustus”, in which a man trades his soul to a devil in return for power and thereafter is oblivious to the possibility of salvation, offered him by the good angel. The vampires’ separation from God is plainly stated in an early scene, using in the trailer, in which Marlow attacks a young woman, Kirsten.
Kirsten Toomey: [crying] Please, God…
Marlow: [speaking in vampire language] God?
[Marlow looks around, and then after a long pause he stares into Kirsten’s eyes]
Marlow: [coldly, in English] No god.
Kirsten appeals to God, and Marlow shakes his head, almost sadly in my reading, and says that there is no God. In this film, vampirism is a metaphor for atheism.
Belying the emptiness of life without God, Marlow also announces to his victims:
Marlow: [speaking in vampire language] There is no escape. No hope. Only hunger and pain.
For Marlow, and for all of the vampires, there is no escape. They cannot die naturally, they can only trudge along in empty lives of hunger and pain. Marlow has no belief in God, no hope for salvation. The vampires demonstrate the ultimate end to which Eben’s current path leads.
In the climactic scene, Eben searches for a way to save the remaining townspeople. Like Dr. Faustus, Eben is presented with a choice, and like Dr. Faustus his despair blinds him to any possibility but damnation. Rather than save himself and the townspeople, Eben sacrifices himself, in a twisted reflection Christ’s sacrifice, embracing vampirism and becoming a vampire in order to use the vampiric strength to defeat Marlow. And, once he has done so and saved what is left of the town, Eben, still lacking hope and seeing no alternative, watches the sun rise with his estranged wife, committing suicide.
“30 days of Night” is a horrific, gory, tragic story of the hopelessness of life without God, a life in which “There is no escape. No hope. Only hunger and pain.“