(2009) dir. Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
From the writing/directing team credited as “the Spierig brothers” (Undead (2003)), Daybreakers is a twist on the vampire movie, with just enough of a tweaking to feel fresh, but maybe not enough to attain greatness. Still, Daybreakers is a cut above your average horror film, in production values, in concept and execution. Sadly, that isn’t saying a whole lot, but I’ll give credit where I feel it’s due, and Daybreakers is better than average. By a slight margin.
Really, it’s more a sci-fi/horror film than a pure singular genre flick. You see, something has happened, a break-out of vampirism, and within about 10 years, the whole world has been transformed. The vampires are the regular guys. Humans are a hunted, endangered resource, when captive kept in a coma-like state to produce blood for the food of those who have been transformed into bloodsuckers. And we have Ethan Hawke as the “liberal” blood researcher who is attempting to come up with an artificial substitute for blood to save the human race and the vampire race.
There are many sociological parallels, such as diminishing natural resources, the threat to our food crops, and general corporate greed, all at play in this film. You see, vampires, when deprived of human blood, start feasting on other vampires or themselves and start mutating into monster bat creatures. So, there is a looming apocalypse on their hands. The vampire society, which Hawke is a part of, is really basically a mirror of normal society, if everybody had glowing eyes, fangs, and a need for human blood for fulfillment. The societal issues abound in a way more true perhaps to its science fiction roots than pure horror.
The Spierig brothers hook in a lot of gore and surprises, managing to avoid too many cheap scares and focusing on the story and the characters. Which ultimately works in their favor.
The film is shot in those limited palettes in which everything is kind of murky. It works since the vampires have to hide from the sun, but it seems like it could have been played to a more effective role. On the whole, the film works. Also starring Willem Defoe and Sam Neill, it’s more interesting than most of the genre films of the ilk that came out last year.
When I started thinking through the logic of the world transition, I had some issues with the believability of the speed at which the society would utterly convert to a pro-vampire world, naturalized as it is, and so quickly turn to the market of using humans for blood “cows”. And also those who have turned vampire. Supposedly it’s only been 10 years, but the vampires are all dyed in the wool, having disdain for the world of the living. It just seems a little more culturally ingrained than one might imagine in a decade. But it does make for some of the amusing details that color this world: vampires drinking coffee with blood in it, teenage vampires hanging out, vampire homeless asking for a “bite” to eat. It’s shows some promise from these Aussies. I’ll look forward to their next picture.