Saturday, April 03, 2010


Year: 2009
Directors: Michael & Peter Spierig
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas

I love vampire films. Can't get enough of them. But lately, the vampire genre has suffered a tremendous amount of bad press thanks to the Twilight saga, which as you all know, focuses more on the romanticism up to the point where the darkness factor of vampires has been severely diluted.

So we need a new vampire film, the kind that brings us back to the old days when there were no vampire teenagers and lovestruck kids, just the undead with sharp fangs and a real thirst for blood. Enter Daybreakers.

Daybreakers is set in the year 2019, where a virus has turned almost everyone into vampires, therefore humans are the minority. Humans are now captured and farmed for their blood, but as their numbers dwindle, so does the blood. Thus vampires are forced to find a solution, or they will subsequently turn into violent bat-like beasts called subsiders, for which there is no cure.

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hematologist who works for a large pharmaceutical firm owned by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). Bromley tells Edward to find a suitable blood substitute before what they fear becomes a reality. Try as he might, Edward is unsuccessful. Then one day he runs into a human named Audrey (Claudia Karvan), and helps her hide from the police. (Edward happens to be a human sympathiser by the way) This prompts her to seek his help in ending the war between the two races.

But how? This is where Elvis (Willem Dafoe) comes in. Elvis happens to be the only vampire who miraculously turned back to a human being. Audrey introduces Edward to him and together they try to recreate the process that turned Elvis back. But Bromley is going to do whatever it takes to prevent the humans from changing the status quo.

German brothers Michael and Peter Spierig wrote and directed this film, and as far as creating a different angle of the vampire genre goes, they do succeed at first. Imagine a world where vampires are in charge, where normal activity takes place mostly at night, where all cars have dark tinted shields, and all the stuff you've seen on True Blood is multiplied tenfold. It's quite an interesting prospect. But like I said, it seems that way at first.

As the story moves into the second half, it becomes less cerebral and more violent. The plot gets lost at times and the pace gets uneven. By the time we get to the climax, the entire situation gets really messy and thus less believable. Which is a pity, because this movie had a ton of potential going for it, but the execution of the plot slowly suffers towards the end.

Hawke puts in an understated performance as Edward here, but in hindsight his role wasn't meant to be the action hero type, so it more or less works. Neill is quite effective as the villain Bromley, but it is Dafoe who steals the show as the charismatic Elvis. He can be serious, preachy and funny all at once. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen's Isabel Lucas, who plays Bromley's human daughter Alison, is unfortunately wasted here. Her character is nothing more than a tool to get the audience's sympathy.

There are also a couple of inconsistencies worth pointing out here. The vampires in Twilight don't have fangs and they sparkle instead of spontaneously combusting in sunlight. Thankfully the vampires in Daybreakers are just the opposite, which is accurate. But they are not faster or stronger than normal folk, and having no reflection in the mirror is just too old school. That's weird to me. So far, the vampires in the Blade films are still the best portrayed.

In the end, Daybreakers just falls short of being great. If you don't mind the gore and blood on show, give it one watch. And pray that the hinted sequel does better. (3.5/5)

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