Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Templesmith Tells the Better Tale

My feelings are mixed concerning 30 Days of Night. I can never seem to quite decide if I love the art style or if I simply appreciate them. If I love it, I’d feel that the pictures add some necessary characteristic to the mood of the story. If I simply appreciate the art, then I respect the artist’s style, but I would feel that the art didn’t coincide well enough with the narration. The thing is, standalone, I think I love the art, but as part of this graphic novel, I simply just appreciate it. 

 Ben Templesmith also worked on the Silent Hill graphic novel, Dying Inside, which I also questioned my feelings toward; on one hand, the art was disturbing, but on the other hand, it did not match my perception of Silent Hill in any way, shape, or form. Although when I first read 30 Days of Night years ago, I had no precedent for what to expect, I still felt the art deviated too much from the actual story, but I still liked looking at the pictures. I compared Templesmith’s work to Kiki Smith’s, which always seems to tell me a story, but one so complex that it could not be put into words. After reading 30 Days of Night again, though, I wonder if, maybe, I just feel the artwork is too complex or intense, and the narrative is not elaborate enough for the graphic novel as a whole.

As for the story, and keep in mind this is the only volume in the series I’ve read, I did think it was too simple. Vampires decide to attack an Alaskan town. Although I can’t think of a story that’s done this, the concept does not seem original. Maybe it’s just too simplistic so it seems unoriginal. Where the story begins to shine, however, is where it does become original, when the elite vampire steps into town. His presence is the main reason I’ve given this novel more than just a passing glance, since I originally assumed it to be an overhyped graphic piece of pop culture.

The elite vampire represents the darkness beneath the darkness. It’s not enough for me to be scared of a villain or monster. I need something beneath them that is a worse scenario. In Hellbound Heart (or Hellraiser) the uncle is the primary serial-killer villain, but the Cenobites made the story interesting, kept me intrigued. They offered the scenario worse than being murder by the uncle, which was being dragged to a hell-like dimension of pleasure and pain. In 30 Days of Night, the elite vampire provides the worse-case scenario: no chance for escape, everyone burned alive, and eternal vampirism through maintaining secrecy. The initial vampires provided a monster to detest, but the hierarchy demonstrates the mystery regarding this vampire society. Humans have no idea what lurks in the shadows, how far the hierarchy extends--this idea is scarier than just knowing, “Oh, I can’t go to Alaska for one month out of the year.”

 I own the blu-ray of this movie, too, and there’s some differences and similarities I must mention. First, the vampires seem too alien in the movie. They speak a different language, and they can hardly speak at all. The dialogue in the book makes them more accessible so readers can connect to them on the human level, which keeps them scary for me as opposed to considering them large parasitic insects. As for similarities, the creatures looked pretty similar. The art was maintained well in the movie. The vampires looked partially human, but developed some disturbing deformities, mainly their mouths and teeth, which became more shark like than the commonplace overdeveloped canine teeth most vampires strut around with. The other consistency was tone, which the movie helped create with music. Although, the graphic novel has no music (it’s a book, of course), the movie’s music is heavy on bass, heavy to the point where it cause my speakers to pop. This unsettling sound causes viewers to feel disturbed and isolated in the frozen landscape much like the artwork does in the book. The artwork is intense and accomplishes a lot where the realistic imagery of the film falls short; however, the music does help to instill the same emotions.

Overall, I like the work, but I’m not sure if it meets its hype. The artwork is amazing, but I feel it’s lowering itself by associating itself with this almost too-simplistic tale, and I felt the same about Templesmith’s other work, Dying Inside. But when I see Templesmith’s work standing alone, I’m almost always struck with awe. He knows how to draw a picture that tells a frightening story, and in the end, that’s why 30 Days of Night succeeds.

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