Riding the most recent wave of monster-dom, Daybreakers hit DVD shelves last week and is yet another entry in the endless parade of vampire films to hit the market since the arrival of a little film called Twilight (which I hear is somewhat popular). Breaking with recent trends however, Daybreakers is by far the best of the bunch; high concept and high reward.
The year is 2019. After a plague sweeps across the globe turning men, women, and children into blood-thirsty, pale versions of their former selves another, a larger threat looms. The remaining humans, who now mostly exist only in vast blood farms that recall the fields of The Matrix, are drying out. Blood shortages are common place and with the direction of a vampire hematologist named Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawk) they desperately search for a blood substitute. However, complications lead Dalton to question his loyalties after he meets a group of humans led by a former-vampire turned vigilante (Willem Dafoe) and with the future of mankind resting in the balance, time grows more and more precious.
The vampire world created by director brothers Michael and Peter Spierig is extensive and all-encompassing. The attention to detail at every turn is the greatest reason to seek out Daybreakers, even if script and some performances aren't quite up to the same standard. Take for example instances of how the vamps navigate during the daytime and what a double-double coffee now means. Many earmarks of vampire lore remain; death by sunlight, susceptibility to a steak in the heart, etc. Many details about the new world culture is left to viewer imagination, which is a far better avenue to take than attempting to stuff the story with perfunctory exposition and revelations.
Amidst a sea of flashy set pieces, the acting takes a backseat. Hawk is merely there, Dafoe is entertaining enough and scores most of the laughs and Sam Neill shows up as the shady CEO of the blood farm and is sufficiently sinister. The real standout is Claudia Karvan as one of the remaining humans who actually manages to bring down her languid looking co-stars with her emotion and charm. Daybreakers features a number of requisite action set-pieces and do the job admirably enough, but it it's the story that is the real reason to see this film.
If there is still blood to be drained from this waning horror genre lets hope it is not fast-tracked to take advantage of the current craze. If we are to have more vampire flicks of this caliber, it would be preferred to experience them at a time where one is not constantly swamped. Regardless of where these fright flicks future are headed, we are lucky to have Daybreakers. An entertaining and thought-provoking film like this is always welcome amidst a sea of remakes, reboots, and rehashes that have become a staple in Hollywood.
Directed and written by Peter and Michael Spierig
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill
Other Player Affinity Reviews
"Vampirism seems like a disease in Hollywood these days, so Daybreakers
will fall immediately go under the lens of skepticism. Believe it or not, however, Michael and Peter Spierig's film separates itself through high concept futuristic science fiction. Although it ultimately spirals into an emotionless bloodbath, kudos to the film-making duo for taking the out-of-control vampire sub-genre somewhere it actually hasn't indeed been before. Like any respectable sci-fi flick ought to, the Spierig brothers carefully establish their vampire-dominated society and some compelling characters within it. In fact, "Daybreakers" might have the most intelligently crafted societal context for a film that's ultimate goal is entertainment through blood and mayhem. Eventually as "Daybreakers" continues (especially in the third act) and its primary objective of entertainment becomes gorily evident, it becomes less compelling and more generally amusing." Rating: 6/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.5/10