Daybreakers reviewed

Better late than never with this review…

is a vampire movie. But it’s a vastly different vampire movie to the likes of Twilight. For one thing it’s essentially romance-free, and for another thing the film sits more comfortably in the science fiction genre than horror. This said, Daybreakers is a very gory film, akin to something like 28 Days Later. If you are squeamish about blood you may want to skip this one, but know that if you do, you will be missing out on one of the best, if still very flawed, vampire films in years.

The basis premise of Daybreakers is that in the very near future, a plague transforms the vast majority of the world’s population into vampires. However, in becoming a vampire a person’s nature does not change. You’re still you, although you now drink blood-based coffee, don’t age and work at night because sunlight will burn you to a crisp. By 2019, the world has adapted to this strange situation.

Probably the strongest impact Daybreakers makes on viewers is in terms of the tantalising glimpses it offers of this nocturnal, slightly futuristic world and society where vampires are the norm. For example, teenagers are misbehaving in the bodies of 8 year olds and advertising is now completely geared towards the immortal undead. Modifying your car for the thrill of daytime driving is an especial hot topic.

Of course, if things were running perfectly in this vampire world, there really wouldn’t be any point in making a film about it. However, after a decade of vampire conversions and human hunting for blood farming purposes, humanity has dwindled to the point of extinction. And without a regular diet of human blood, vampires devolve into “Subsiders,” mindlessly aggressive bat-like creatures.

In this topical tale of dwindling resources, first the poor transform before society as whole breaks down in desperation for blood. Against this backdrop ambivalent vampire haematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is tasked by his corporate master Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) – a man who adores vampirism because it saved him from terminal illness – with creating a blood substitute. Dalton though would much rather side with crossbow wielding human rebels Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and Elvis (Willem Dafoe), who believe that a permanent cure for vampirism is possible.

With such an original concept and many exciting chase scenes, as Bromley sets the vampire military on Dalton and his allies, it’s a pity then that Daybreakers tries to do a little too much in its 98 minute running time. There are at least 2 subplots about how vampisim affects families, but they detract from the race against time and are never invested with any great emotional intensity. It doesn’t help that none of the actors involved are known for their emotive expressiveness. In fact the whole cast, with the exception of Dafoe’s Elvis – who provides some much needed comic relief – isn’t particularly likeable or identifiable.

Combined with an ending that takes the term “bloodbath” and pushes it beyond credibility to an unfortunately laughable, over-the-top extreme, and Daybreakers doesn’t deliver fully on its potential. Still though, the film is very impressive looking, with an appropriately cold, Matrix-style colour palate, and it shows some genuine creativity in a vampire sub-genre more often identified with love struck teenage girls, emo immortals in lace, and out-of-control, immoral Lost Boys. Worth checking out on DVD.


The Stuart said…
I have to agree, while I loved the retro look and feel to the film, it just never really felt like it delivered at the end. Which was a disappointment since it felt like it had awesome potential.
Pfangirl said…
I totally agree, Stuart. It just didn't quite satisfy as much as it could have.

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