“Daybreakers” is set ten years in the future after the world has been overrun by an “Epidemic” that turns most of the world into Vampires, and the population is running out of the most valuable resource on the planet – human blood. Hawke stars as Edward Dalton, the leading hematologist searching for a blood substitute in order to save the vampires from morphing into huge human/bat hybrids due to lack of the red man-juice. The obvious tie in to the world’s oil reserves is never hidden, and the fact that all of the cars in the picture are noiseless and electric only serves to heighten the allegory. However the fact that the Spierig brothers have no interest in hiding the “Point” of the movie makes it all the better. This isn’t a film about cerebral commentary on international amenities, it is just pure B-Movie fun.
As more and more of the population slip into decline, starved for the diminished supply of real blood, Dalton refuses to feed on even a drop of the “Real Stuff,” harboring sympathies for the few remaining humans. After a car accident with some honest to God sun-lovers Dalton is drawn into the band of humans who have banded together to find a cure for the plague threatening to overtake the planet once and for all. Among the humans is ex-vamp Elvis played by Willem Defoe. Coming off a decidedly different type of Horror picture, Lars Von Trier’s “Anti-Christ,” Defoe isn’t really swinging for the fences here, but his stunted, even clumsy, performance actually adds to the Midnight Movie feel. Even Ethan Hawke, who usually comes off uber-melodramatic, fits perfectly into the role of the Vampire yearning for his own humanity – think a tougher Edward Cullen with less poofy hair.
Heading the major blood-farming corporation is the villainous Charles Bromley, played by the admirably restrained Sam Neil, who would rather turn the human cows into cash instead of finding a cure for his immortality. Part of the genius of the script are the details about living in a world filled with vampires the Spierig Brothers include. Bromley constantly smokes cigars, Dalton chain smokes cigarettes because they don’t have to worry about cancer, all of the cars are fitted with cameras and window shields for day driving, and there is an underground network of tunnels for walking around during the day, all of which add up to a rather textured world they have created.
Some film makers, when given a significantly larger budget than in their first picture will go all out, forgoing a lot of the ingenuity that got them the budget in the first place, but not here. Having done the majority of the effects themselves for their little seen, but worth-your-time debut feature, “Undead,” the Spierig brothers are no strangers to gore. In their first picture, a fun zombie romp through a small Australian village, they stretched their limited budget into some of the most amusing action sequences put to film. Here they make admirable use of practical make-up effects in the form of the bat-like creatures, in particular in an early fight sequence between Dalton and one of the mutants.
Details and effects help, but what makes “Daybreakers” so fun is the tone. There are enough moments of strange, goofiness involving bats and other little nasties to offset the overly serious apocalyptic tone with a wink, and the climactic battle alone, backed by Christopher Gordon’s magnificently huge score, will go down in horror history as not only one of the bloodiest, but most entertaining third acts of the genre. The photography by Ben Nott is dark and atmospheric, and the costume design by George Liddle is a kind of futuristic “Mad Men” chic, all adding up to a slightly corny yet terrifically fun universe. The final scene definitely sets up a sequel, and the film leaves enough open ended questions to turn this into a franchise, but that is up to the viewing public and their demand for this strange and interesting world. No matter the public’s demand I will be looking forward to seeing what these two interesting film makers can conjure up in the future.
During the first five or six weeks of the new year Hollywood studios dump the pictures they think won’t find any love from the movie going public, though sometimes there is a diamond in the rough. Last year it was “Taken,” which took in over $145 million domestically according to IMDb.com. While it may not do that major business that “Taken” did “Daybreakers” is the a great way to start off the year. Blood and guts and Ethan Hawke might put people in the seats for the first weekend, but the crowd reaction is guaranteed to be mixed with this bombastic, gory gem. With the juggernaut of torture porn, headed by the ever dwindling credibility of the “Saw” franchise, dominating the genre for first decade of the Twenty-First Century let’s hope that that the ingenious “Daybreakers” can usher back in an era of fun, inventive, and inspired horror movies for the second ten years.
El Luchador Rating: 4 out of 5
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)