Friday, October 3, 2014


You know those vampire movies, where the hero has to kill off the head baddie so that the world doesn’t get overrun—as well as mankind becoming extinct—by bloodsuckers?  Well, meet the movie that takes place after all that happens and when the hero doesn’t turn things around.  2010’s Daybreakers is the “what if?” film that takes place well after humans are defeated by vampires.  In fact, it’s a futuristic film that shows us how we become the minority and the prey for those predators.

When the trailer showed itself before some movie I had seen sometime in 2009 (I can’t remember which…nor can I remember if it was in a theater or on a DVD rental), I just thought it was your run-of-the-mill vampire flick.  But my ears pricked up when I saw that the story takes place in the future, after vampires have taken over the world and have become the dominant species, making humans their primary source of food.  I saw the science fiction aspect of the story, right away, in that trailer and that was unique to me.  Then, I noticed some well-known actors were featured in the film—Sam Neill, Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe to name a few—and took that as a good sign that this might be something worth seeing.  But, alas, the movie came and went without me bothering to check it out.  In the back of mind, however, I figured I’d catch it on home media and that’s exactly what I had done a mere five or six months later.

The film takes place ten years in the future, with the majority of the world’s population being vampires.  Humans are only a small minority in the world, which presents a problem for the vampires
as their food supply (human blood) is diminishing.  Dr. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), a lead hematologist—and a vampire—for Bromley Marks Corporation, a large pharmaceutical company, has been helping the company look for a way to produce a synthetic blood to sustain the population.  By chance, Dalton runs into a group of humans and helps them get away from the local authorities, obviously sympathetic to them as he lies to the vampire cops when they show up.  Later, the leader of that group of humans, Audrey (Claudia Karvan), shows up at Dalton’s home and tells him they know of a cure for vampirism, giving him a map to a meeting location.  There, he meets Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) and he explains to Dalton how he used to be a vampire, but due to a freak accident, he was cured and is now human again.  Dalton then decides to work with the humans to try and duplicate what happened to Elvis so that a cure can be developed.

I like how the filmmakers—the writing and directing duo of Michael and Peter Spierig—went against the grain of vampire movies by showing their species as a majority of the Earth’s population.  Typically, the vampires, in film, are shown as a miniscule group of beings that a human hero will go after and eventually destroy.  The vampire is always shown as the evil entity that automatically kills humans and shows no sympathy in doing so.  In Daybreakers, we still have characters like that, but then there are some—like Ethan Hawke’s character—who show compassion and choose not to kill humans.

Also, another aspect of the film that interested me is the added mutation the vampires are threatened with due to the lack of human blood.  It’s not just a case where they are going hungry and dying off, but instead are turning into demon-like creatures that are feral in nature and need to be killed off by the remaining authoritative vampire figures.  With that added to the mix of the plot, Hawke’s character is even more abstruse in his place concerning his own kind and the humans as he’s stuck between his empathy for their cause and the threat of being mutated into some regressive monster.

The look of the film is so clean and crisp, with a very futuristic look to it, but not to the point where we have flying cars and overindulgent gadgets doing everything for us.  The Spierig brothers really know how to set up their shots, giving us the differentiating worlds of both the vampires and humans.  Of course, since the vampires need to live their lives without the sun, most of their scenes were filmed at night and the Spierigs really give us a cold feeling as well with those shots.  Also, the ideas that they come up with to help the vampires live in their day-to-day lives are kind of neat.  The cars, for one, and the technology used on them were really cool—the use of video when the darkened shields were instituted was very impressive.

Ethan Hawke as the lead character had the right chops to pull off the role.  I’ve always thought he was good at pulling off characters that show empathy towards others and he doesn’t fail here.  Most times, however, Hawke plays the good guy in his films so it was a no-brainer to cast him in this role.  But I have seen Hawke in some good antagonistic roles that he’d pulled off just as well. 

Willem Dafoe was a little goofy in this film…I don’t know…I guess I see him as the Green Goblin now, so I my evaluation of his role is a little unfair.  It might’ve been the southern drawl he was putting on or just that he was playing the part a little too flippantly.

It’s nice to see Sam Neill—who plays the evil pharmaceutical company CEO, Charles Bromley—back in an evil role.  I’ve always been a little frightened of him after seeing him for the first time in Omen III: The Final Conflict way back in 1981 (I was twelve at the time), so I thought he was right for the part.

Any time you’re going to have a horror movie out there these days, you’re going to have to pull off
some top notch special effects.  In that regard, this film doesn’t hold back.  One of the first effects actually made me jump a little when I first saw it.  It was the testing of the substitute blood on a vampire that seemed to be going bad, then calmed down…before suddenly making the test subject explode in a burst of blood and brains.  The design of the mutated vampires was done pretty well and gave me a jolt once more in another scene.  The Spierigs definitely did their homework and gave us a good show when it came to the effects shots within this film.

So, what’s my final “bit” on Daybreakers?

Just when I was getting sick of vampire movies, the team of Michael and Peter Spierig give us something fresh and new here.  They didn’t feel the need to give us an origin story on how the world had gotten to be this way, because with every movie that’s been done so far, we know.  Daybreakers is pretty solid all the way through, yet there are still a few lulls here and there.  But I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend this film to anyone who enjoys vampire movies and sci-fi flicks—the genres were meshed together pretty well in this one.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

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