The Scoop: 2010 R, directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, and starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill
Tagline: In 2019, the most precious natural resource… is us.
Summary Capsule: A world of vampires isn’t as sexy as you’d think. Consider: blood in coffee.
Justin’s Rating: At least it didn’t suck… too hard.
Justin’s Review: For those of you out there who are in love with the vampire genre – and there are far, far too many of you to argue that I live in a sane world — movies like Daybreakers must make you wince and head back to your imaginary love cave, where your sparkling undead studmuffin awaits to fulfill your necropheliac fantasies. Daybreakers is one of those rare vampire movies where it doesn’t glamorize the condition or bludgeon us with a thinly-veiled sex metaphor. Instead, it simply asks the question: what if vampires became the dominant species? What then?
It’s a terrific question, because vampirism at its core is a virus, one that is designed to spread quickly. Within the fictional boundaries of this premise, it’s not hard to see an entire planet become converted within the space of a year. So, what then?
Instead of billions of vampires relocating to Transylvania and crowding into castles and subterranian dungeons, the world continues to operate as usual – more or less. Sure, everyone remains inside during the daytime, they put a little blood in their coffee, and they milk captured humans for the red stuff, but businesses go on, because what else is there to do?
Daybreakers is a movie that shoves as many interesting ideas about a vampire world in its hour-and-a-half running time as possible, and while it may be a little too much at times and a little too unhinged at others, I was certainly never bored. In fact, I really appreciated the thought that went into a lot of the little details, like what happens when vampires stop getting enough blood (think Nosferatu) or how car companies might adapt to protecting their undead customers.
Speaking of undead, this is the second film by the Spierig brothers (Undead) who continue to showcase their talents as intriguing storytellers who handle flawed yet captivating tales. As they quickly take us through the Daybreakers world, we see in the small details that vampirism isn’t sexy or terrifically horrifying or as awesome as we might think – it’s just another way of life. It was a small stroke of genius to put conflicted vampire Edward (Ethan Hawke) at the front and center, who was a reluctant convert, feels sympathy for the few humans who are left, and is trying to both save the vampire race and liberate the uninfected by developing synthetic blood before time runs out. Pulled between his well-meaning soldier of a brother, his too-corporate boss and a group of humans who are trying to reverse the virus, Eddie tries to do what is right even though he lacks pretty much everything we associate with an awesome vampire superhero.
It may be too short, imperfect and atypical of the genre, but Daybreakers kept me glued to the screen as it told a little tale extremely well. Cullens, you’re on notice.
Mike’s Rating: 50 points for not being Twilight.
Mike’s Review: In the realms of storytelling, be it novels, comics, television or movies, a really original and interesting premise can go a long way. The truly great stories can then use that mileage and take the audience the rest of the way with well-executed aspects like twists and bends, social commentary, choice performances and a thought provoking ending that stays with you. Daybreakers takes a great premise, runs with it, and *just barely* makes it past the B movie mark.
I’m reminded of an old joke. Three vampires walk into a pub and one makes his way up to the bar. He orders two pints of blood and one pint of plasma, and the bartender replies “Okay, so that’s two bloods and a blood-lite.” In the world of this film, that’s a plausible scenario. In 2019, vampires have replaced humanity as the dominant species on the planet. Humankind is harvested, Blade: Trinity style in massive warehouses so that vampire businessmen can have blood in their lattes. Cars have no windows, only video screens for daytime driving, and society has moved downstairs, as in underground. All is not well however. In a answer to why vampires never attempted to take over the world in every other vampire movie ever, humankind is now on the endangered species list, seriously dwindling the blood supply. Now since vampires are immortal there’s no danger of starvation. Rather, after going long enough without blood the human-looking, well-spoken vamps begin to mutate into deformed, mindless, thirst-driven “subsiders” who will even drink vampire blood if they can get it.
In the midst of this growing crisis, the powers that be turn to Hematologist Edward Dalton, (Hawke in full-on Gattaca-mode) to create a blood substitute. Edward, a humankind sympathizer who refuses to drink human blood takes his job very seriously, seeking to solve the blood crisis for vampires and save the human race as well. This idealism runs afoul of his boss Charles Bromley (Neill), who is all about immortality and eating juicy people, and his brother Frankie (Michael Dorman), a human hunter who more than embraces extreme carnivorism. When Edward saves a small band of humans that initially try to carjack him, he finds himself recruited into a growing resistance movement, led by Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac (Dafoe), and his focus goes from creating synthetic blood, to finding a cure for vampirism itself.
There’s a lot going on here story-wise, and for the most part the film pulls it off. The idea of a society of monsters just barely maintaining a facade of civilization is a fertile ground for harvesting all kinds of ideas, especially in this day and age where vampire movies have unfortunately become romance novels. Every vampire in this movie is just a few missed meals away from going from Edward Cullen to Max Schreck. Sam Neill gets a great sub-plot about his human daughter and his attempts to recruit her into the blood-sucking fold, despite the fact that she clearly views him as a monster. Edward and Frankie’s relationship is expounded upon as it’s revealed that little bro is the one who turned Edward, presumably against his will. Willem Dafoe gets to satiate the action fans by just having fun wielding crossbows and driving muscle cars.
Sadly though, the movie doesn’t ascend to the heights offered by it’s potential. With a starting idea like this, Daybreakers could have been the horror equivalent of District 9, but sadly too many important details aren’t expounded upon. The plot tries too hard to resolve the “magic vs science” elements and ends up never fully explaining either. Is vampirism simply a virus originally contracted from a bat bite (as alluded to in the opening sequence), and if so, then why do vampires not cast shadows (as seen when the main character is first introduced)? What kind of a virus counts immortality among it’s side-effects? Are we supposed to accept that vampires have always been around and just experienced a huge population surge in 2009 thanks to one guy getting bitten by a freaking bat?
Ultimately, though it doesn’t really live up to the expectations of such a promising start, it’s still a fun, entertaining monster movie with an original story and some thoughtful plot points. Definitely worth a rent, and worth seeing on the big screen if you’re one of those horrophiles who can’t stand what’s being done with vampires lately, and are longing to see a real vampire messily devour their human victims.
- The makers of the movie hosted a contest in Worth1000.com (famous photo manipulation-contest site) to come up with images of how the world would look if nearly everyone were a vampire.
- Vampires spill a lot of blood when they eat. No wonder there’s a shortage.
- Ethan Hawke is seriously trying to pull off the Han Solo look with that vest.
- The makers of the movie hosted a contest at Worth1000.com to come up with images of how the world would look if nearly everyone were a vampire.
- When we first “see” Edward Dalton, it’s as an empty collar and tie in his car’s rear-view mirror. Later, his right ear feels strange so he pulls down his sun visor to check it out. If you look closely there is a video camera in the sun visor that then projects the video in the spot where a mirror would be.
- Hmmmm shortage of natural resources; homelessness problem…even in a vampire society the economy still sucks.
Charles Bromley: Do you like being a vampire?
Frankie Dalton: Yes, sir.
Charles Bromley: Why?
Frankie Dalton: I’m good at this. I was never very good at being human.
Senator Westlake: Let’s be clear about this. Humans were offered a chance to assimilate, but they refused. Therefore, they are enemies of the state and will be captured and farmed for blood supply.
Edward Dalton: Yeah well, life is a bitch ain’t it? Then you don’t die.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- 30 Days of Night