It is certainly a memorable scene. Vampires chasing down the residents of a small town on the frozen tundra. Its residents cannot leave, they cannot contact the outside world, and the sun will not return for 30 days. The town-folk are powerless against their assailants. And the vampires run rampant through the town, slaughtering the residents at will and completely without mercy.
Shot from above, the figures run this way and that across the blood splattered snow. Which is vampire and which is victim? You can just make it out in some instances, mostly when one of them dies. Horribly!
This is classic horror, is it not?
No. It’s the Tragedy of the Commons.
You see the real tragedy in this story is not the loss of human life. That story is so old it hardly merits mention. Yeah, yeah, there is a couple, an adorable grandma, a spunky teen, and even a weird uncle-like character who will do some good before he dies. We even get a token minority, and of course we wonder which will live and which won’t.
All been done before.
What makes this film truly original, what separates it from the rank and file horror-flicks, what makes this high art, is the fact that this movie explores the economic ramifications of a completely unique ecosystem. Sadly, the movie seems to suggest that vampires just don’t get it either. Immortal though they may be, they too are doomed to experience the miseries of a Malthusian nightmare. They too will exhaust their food supply.
In this case, it is entirely unnecessary.
You see, the Barrow in Alaska of Thirty Days of Night is a vampire’s Utopian dream. Easily cut off from the outside world, and subject to 30 full days of darkness, what blood sucking undead would not regard it as the ultimate dinner banquet, just waiting for an RSVP? And with a little over a hundred and fifty people remaining in town for the winter, there should be plenty of food to go around.
Of course, if a vampire was paying attention, he would have noticed that Barrow actually has about 5,000 people and 2 months of night (or 40-something days of it, depending on what counts as a day without sun). So, Barrow is even more plentiful than the fellows in this movie could possibly have imagined.
So, you would THINK that a small hoard of vampires accustomed to long drawn-out plot lines just to get a single meal in before the second act would be able to make the most of this opportunity. Well perhaps if they had read their Garrett Hardin! …or if they had implemented a proper system of human resource management. If they had even auctioned the mortals off as private property, things might still have gone better. With proper incentives, each of the undead could have had food enough to last for the entire winter.
The greedy vampires regard the entire population of Barrow as common property and so each sets about slaughtering as many town-folk as he can, thus reaping the benefits of extra blood consumed individually while imposing the costs of a rapidly diminishing food supply on the entire vampire hoard. Even at the cost of diminishing returns, this approach grants to each rampaging vampire a greater share of the blood gushing from the necks of his victims than he would get by patiently consuming his fair share. And each does just this until there is nothing left for anyone to eat. That is simply what happens when property, even human property, is held in common, and without a mechanism for properly managing the finite resources of the town’s residents.
It doesn’t help that these wasteful buffoons leave large quantities of their meal to spill out over the frozen snow. But that really is beside the point. What matters most is that they never really did establish a viable means of managing the cornucopia that lay helpless before them. As a direct result, they run through their food supply very quickly and spend the rest of the movie working hard to track down the few remaining humans smart enough to make themselves central characters in the movie.
It really is a damned shame.
You can see the results toward the end of the film as a whole town full of vampires tries to make do with a single teen-aged girl. There really isn’t enough of her to go around. Oh they toy with her; they even say some scary things at her, but let’s face it, nobody is all that impressed when you play with your food. And all that sadistic pleasure taken in tormenting the poor girl doesn’t change the fact that, she was the last meal any one of the gluttonous night fiends was going to eat for a long while. This wasn’t scary; it was pathetic.
The hunger of the poor starving vampires leads to still worse events when some of the mortals manage to fight back. Don’t even try to tell me that would have happened if the vampire hoard had not gone hungry in the wake of their wasteful banquet. These guys were bad-ass at the beginning of the film. Bad-ass! In the end, well let’s just say that even the alpha-pire turns out to have a glass jaw. All of that could have been avoided if the vampires had simply instituted some mechanism by which individuals could be held accountable for using up the common resources of the community.
There really is no excuse for any of this. These guys could have ruled the longest night in movie-making history, released a satisfying belch and rode off into the moon-set.
If only they had had a plan.
We are just now entering into Polar Midnight here in Barrow, and as always, some of us are a little worried about the whole thing. I mean it’s just a movie, yeah, we all know. But all that darkness does get a little spooky, and I think I saw something out on the tundra last night. Or maybe it was this morning. Hard to tell.
CAUSE IT’S DARK!
Anyway, I have no idea if the vampires will actually come this time. But if they do, then I certainly hope my life and that of my friends and neighbors will not be wasted frivolously by some foolish fiend who doesn’t finish his plate.
Lycanthropic children are starving in Bulgaria!
Haha 🙂 Fantastic read and a good second take on that movie.
Despite the serious nature of the underlying message of properly managing our resources, I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of vampires stopping to plan their food supply. Sensible option but funny nonetheless.
The notion occurred to me about half way through the flick. Made it more fun to watch.
Enchanted Seashells said:
Are you really in Barrow? My capt husband has been there and all over Alaska. I wish I could visit it one day.
Yep. I’m in barrow. Everyone talks about this movie. Most don’t like it, but the barrow of this film is so completely different from the real thing I can hardly bring myself to care about the difference. Too many hills, too homogenous a population (Barrow is as multicultural as any community I’ve ever seen), and way too dark. Even in polar midnight we get an almost sunrise. There are movies that show the oddities of sun cycles up this far North reasonably well (‘Heart of Light’ and ‘On the Ice’ come to mind). This is just …bang! …darkness.
Read the comic book, but never saw the movie — I’d never thought of the story quite the way you put it.
Whenever people talk about corporate self-regulation (as opposed to govt. regulation), I always bring up the example of how the fishermen in Monterey Bay destroyed the local sardine population (and their own livelihoods) in spite of warnings from Fish & Game. Gotta say, your example is much more colorful 🙂
I actually think Hardin’s argument against the use of moralistic solutions is one of the best features of his article. The irony (which so many fail to grasp) is that without effective regulation you penalize the decent ones, and then no-one can afford to do the right thing.
“… without effective regulation you penalize the decent ones, and then no-one can afford to do the right thing.”
Yes. That exactly.
I love that movie, and I really enjoyed your take on the theme here,
Thank you Katrina.
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