Friday, October 19, 2007

30 Days of Cliche

"...an isolated Alaskan town ... is plunged into darkness for a month each year when the sun sinks below the horizon. As the last rays of light fade, the town is attacked by a bloodthirsty gang of vampires bent on an uninterrupted orgy of destruction"

Yeah, OK, I can see that, sort of. Vampires fear sunlight. During winter at high latitudes there is no sunlight for a long periods. Makes sense for the photophobic undead to winter over in northern Alaska. I'd bet you could write a whole story around the idea, a good story. I suspect 30 Days of Night, an "Uninterrupted orgy of destruction," isn't that story, but I think it could be done. Though it might be kind of hard to bite people on the neck when they're bundled up in long underwear and three layers of polar fleece topped by a hooded parka (yeah, that's right, when there's no sunlight for a couple of months, there's also no heat. It's 40 to 60F below zero, have fun with that, Bloodsuckers). Ever been out in that kind of weather? All that vampire drool and glycerin blood that movie directors are so fond of these days, would freeze your fangs. Biting somebody at those temperatures would be a lot like licking a metal flag pole. I don't recommend it, though it does present some interesting comedic possibilities for a vampire movie. This isn't my kind of movie, though I imagine I'll see it eventually just out of morbid (heh) curiosity, when it shows up in the bargain bin for $3. Reason I bring it up is that it's supposed to be set in small town Alaska. Hell, I live in small town Alaska, naturally a Vampire movie set in Alaska gets my attention, which brings me to yet another of my pet peeves. Where was this movie filmed?

Auckland, New Zealand.

New Zealand? Land of Hobbits, oh yeah, New Zealand looks just exactly like northern Alaska. Probably no shortage of quirky local oddballs willing to work for cheap either. Put some Carharts on 'em, add a bad Minnesotan or Canadian accent and some ersatz snow and viola, instant Alaskans!

This movie continues a long, long trend of making movies and TV shows supposedly set in Alaska pretty much anywhere else but Alaska. I will say that at least Auckland is something new, usually movies about Alaska are filmed in Canada or California. Need some examples?

Mystery, Alaska: A funny movie. I actually like this movie a lot despite the fake "Alaskan" accents (God sakes!), far too much winter daylight for the supposed location, and Mike Meyers. Filming location: Alberta, Canada
North To Alaska: I like this movie too, I'm just a sucker for John Wayne formula flicks. But for crying out loud, filmed in Big Bear, California, USA? Oh yeah, just exactly like Nome.
Men in Trees: Thank god this cliche-ridden piece of HBO crap didn't last past the pilot season. Minnesota accents and raccoons! Yeah, we've just got shitloads of raccoons in Alaskan, and no hair dryers. Filmed in British Columbia, Canada - and they can keep it.
Northern Exposure: Every town in Alaska is filled with billionaire ex-astronauts, angry female bush pilots, and philosophical radio DJ's - all desperate to highjack a real doctor from Outside, you know, because there aren't any doctors in Alaska, or Jewish people apparently. I hated this stupid show. Filmed in Washington, USA.
Alaska: Admittedly a kid's movie, but the pre-teen protagonists befriend a wild polar bear? Yeah, from the inside maybe. And just FYI, polar bears don't range south of the Brooke's Range. Idiots. Filmed in British Columbia, Canada.
Snow Dogs: Again a kid's movie. Typical Disney piece of crap. Poor acting. Silly, cliched done to death plot. Even the sled dogs are Hollywood fakes, prize team my ass. Filmed in Alberta, Canada.
The Call of the Wild: When I first moved to Alaska I was advised to always carry a copy of the Jack London novel whenever I went into the bush - because the paper pages make a dandy fire starter. Filmed in Washington, USA
On the Beach (TV version): Filmed in Melbourne, Australia, which I can see because the story mostly takes place there, but there is a critical scene where the submarine skipper and his XO explore radiation killed Anchorage looking for the source of a radio transmission. I don't know where that was filmed, but it sure as hell wasn't Anchorage, Alaska. I will say this about On the Beach, improbable science aside, this is one dammed scary movie - it actually gave me nightmares. Armand Assante had the part of a sub skipper down cold.

Now there have been plenty of movies filmed in Alaska, mostly documentaries where you just can't fake the location. But there was the big budget Al Pacino flop, Insomnia, which was filmed in Alaska, sort of. At least a couple of the location scenes were; the rest of it was filmed in Canadian studios. I actually liked this movie - not for Al's phoned-in acting and the whiny "I can't sleep because it's light out" bullshit - but because somebody shoots Robin Williams in the end. [I originally called this a "Dinero Movie." Sorry Bob, no insult intended. You rock, Sir]

And then, of course, there's Grizzly Man, actually filmed mostly in and around Katmai National Park, Alaska. A biopic, based on the king of all drooling misguided eco-freak whackjobs, Tim Treadwell, who managed to get both himself and his idiot girl friend eaten alive. Actually I would have preferred that they'd filmed this well made tribute to utter stupidity somewhere else, say like Malibu.

No matter where it was filmed, I doubt 30 Days of Night will be a big hit here in Alaska. All real Alaskans know that there's nothing to fear in the dark of the arctic winter, the real bloodsuckers come out in summer, when the sun is in the sky 24 hours a day - they are called Mosquitoes and they will drain you dry.

Oh, the horror, the horror!


  1. Hey, you didn't include Into the Wild, which has been getting a certain amount of coverage up in my part of the state. Some of it was filmed here, with locals as extras.

    I am one of the people that finds the attribution of messianic properties to Chris McCandless rather tasteless, naive, and uninformed. I've seen scores of bright young things intent on moving to Alaska to be in touch with nature, shrug off society, and find true meaning in their lives. They get a grip after about 6 months. Also, my family homesteaded and going unprepared into the woods isn't noble and brave, it's stupid and your mental stability is suspect.

    Not that I have an opinion, or anything...

  2. Tania,

    I figured I'd leave Into the Wild to you, since it was filmed mostly in your neck of the woods. I heartily agree with your assessment of it. And idealistic, back to nature homesteaders too. What pisses me off around here are the ijits who move out to the Matsu, to get "back to nature" and away from Anchorage. Then they bitch about the fact that they can't get the conveniences they're used to and that the snow plow doesn't come by every two minutes. They also let their dogs run wild because "that's why we moved to the country!" which pisses me off more than anything else.

    And before anybody brings it up - I didn't mention that stinking piece of sewage On Deadly Ground on purpose. I have a particular loathing for Steven Segal movies.

  3. ::high fives Jim::

    re: On Deadly Ground, I was just thinking about that wretched piece of garbage earlier this week. ML was having a thread digression on geography problems in film. I immediately thought of how apparently one can snowmachine from the Slope to Valdez in a few hours.

    I worked at UAF for 13 years, I've seen scads of starry-eyed idealists. You're spot on with the people that want to live in the country, but also want to have all the amenities that are only feasible with a certain amount of population density. Yeesh.

    I'm assuming the Homer quote means you watched The Simpsons movie. Is that so? ADN or the FDNM had an article about a couple of the animators being from up here, and they tried to keep it from flubbing up too badly.

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Tania, actually I'm not a fan of The Simpsons. I like Simpsons' quotes, especially that list of Homer quote floating around the internet, but the show doesn't do much for me. I don't hate it, I just don't go out of my way for it.

    Hope you have a good weekend too. I'll spend it putting the plows and chains on the 4-wheelers, it snowed here this morning. Nothing major, but it's coming.

  5. Yeah, I saw the commercials for that and just kinda thought, wtf? Say, anybody ever hear of Permafrost, try sleeping in that, beeatch. For a story line I've been thinking about how modern vampires could work, and I immediately thought of the poles as more condusive. Then realized just how wrong it was. Sure, northern climates are better, but after going so far into the extremes, things start getting worse, quickly. Plus, people in the north are used to bloof suckers, they wouldn't be all that afraid, nor would there be much food left. Plus, 30 days of night, means 30 days of daylight in the summer, not good being highly allergic to sunlight. A whole half a year would be gone for productive hunting. And the other half would see people gathered together, also not good for hunting. The you've got the cultural issues. How good does whale and walrus blubber make blood taste? There's the energy expendature curves, permafrost, lack of bat roosting habitat, low population levels, smaller towns where everybody knows everybody else's business, etc. Just not good for vampires.

  6. Edumacation Request:

    I've always been curious just how long and just how dark the extended dark (and light) times are in Alaska. Also, what's the variance from northern Alaska to southern.

    Also also, as someone that lives there, what are the social, mental, practical, etc. ramifications?

    I know here in Michigan, the days get short enough that I go to work when it's dark, and don't get back outside to go home until it's dark again -- but that's nothing compared to y'all up there.

    Spill the beans if you wish, or remain mystical to us southerners -- it's up to you. (BTW, it's funny as a northern Michigander to consider myself southern anything!)

  7. Shawn, I didn't realize you were in Michigan. I grew up in Jenison, and my folks still live in Middleville, just south of Grand Rapids. Hey, Northern Michigan? Are you in Traverse City?

    As to the daylight thing, it varies. In winter, here in South Central we get about 3 hours of good daylight with a hour of weak twighlight on either side. In summer we get about 22 hours of daylight, with two hours of twilight. You get less and less or more and more sunlight (depending the season) the further north you go, until you hit the Arctic Circle which is the furthest southern point where the sun doesn't rise in winter and doesn't set in summer. Incidentally, the town of North Pole is right on the line, which is were Tania lives. It's a bit north of Fairbanks.

    Mental Ramifications: I can't speak for anybody else, but the lack of sun in the winter, and lack of dark in the summer doesn't bother me at all. I used to live much further north, in Iceland actually, and it didn't bother me there either. Some people get seasonal Affective Disorder, but I don't and neither do most of the people I know. In fact I love winter here. I also love summer. Hell I love the whole dammed thing.

    Social Ramifications: Um, none that I've noticed, most Alaskans just go on about their business without noticing the change in light.

    Honestly, about the only affect on me is that I've got to take the kid to the bus stop in the winter, it's about a 1/2 mile walk and it's pitch dark on our road. I'm afraid he'll run into a moose in the dark, or get hit by a car.

  8. Actually Indian River, about 30 miles south of the bridge on I-75. We have lots of friends/family in Grand Rapids, so end up there a lot.

    Traverse City? No, further north than that, but TC is the closest town with a store that isn't WalMart. We usually make an annual trip, partially because they have a Best Buy and Circuit City. It's like my grown-up version of Toys-R-Us (which, incidentally, they also have)

    Thanks for the daylight explanation. I was under the (false) impression that there was a 2-week period or so that the sun didn't rise/set, and that that 2 week period expanded or contracted based on latitude.

    Thanks again!

  9. *ring, ring*


    "Yes, Jim? This is Al Pacino."

    "'Say hello to my little friend' Al Pacino?"

    "The same. Listen, I'm not sure what you were smoking when you made your '30 Days of Cliche' entry on Stonekettle Station, but I'm pretty sure that was me in Insomnia, not Dinero."

    "Are you sure? I could of sworn it was Dinero."

    "Dude, I was in close proximity to Hilary Swank for weeks, plus I got to plug Robin Williams, even if it was only on film. Of course I'm sure, you tool."

    "I have tools. I'm a wood-worker."

    "Yeah, whatever. Get your facts straight. And by the way, thanks for your service."



  10. Yeah, yeah, now that you mention it, it was in Pacino. I'll fix it. The movie was such a snoozer that I really didn't remember who the hell was in it, or what it was about - other than Robin Williams gets shot in the end, which is OK with me because I'll never forgive him for Bicentennial Man. Never.

  11. OK, it's fixed.

    Details, details. Sheesh. Whatever. I'm more of an idea man.

  12. Bob does indeed rock. And Al usually rocks, too, actually. One of my favorite movie lines actually comes from Insomnia - "You're about as mysterious to me as a blocked toilet is to a fucking plumber." Oh, have I thought this line in my head while dealing with the pretentious people of the world!

    Besides, I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to bust your chops. Can't have the world thinking I'm your bug-eating bitch-girl, you know.

  13. Janiece, if you're doing free copy editing for my blog, doesn't that make you my bug-eating bitch-girl?

    Oh, wait. No - nitpicking Warrants on accuracy is a Senior Chief's job. Dammit. dammit. dammit. I so wanted my very own bug-eating bitch-girl.

  14. Only Dracula gets his own bug-eating bitch-girl, so unless there's more going on up there in Palmer than meets the eye (30 days of Cliche, anyone?), you'll just have to make do without one.

  15. Story of my life. Damn that Dracula. Bastard!

  16. Over in Scandinavia, they have a big celebration for Midsummer precisely because there's so much daylight then. Then in the wintertime, the sun barely clears the horizon for a few hours.

    *has Swedish friends*

  17. There is another problem with the flick, one that I remember from my old gamer days back in college (yes, that was the weird vibe you got off of me initially....): vampires, being undead, are not endothermic. They generate no heat of their own. They would therefore have whatever liquid remains within their dessicated corpses (one of the reasons fire is a good means to dispense with them, flaming swords of biblical angels aside) would be frozen. vampcicles.

    Finally found this blog. I have a lot of catching up to do.


Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.