Daybreakers

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This is my first (and to date, only) movie review, so it’s kinda near and dear to my heart, even though it’s certainly not the only movie I have in mind to share my opinions on.

Daybreakers by Michael Spierig, Peter SpierigDaybreakers

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the year 2019, a plague has transformed almost every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the fractured dominant race plots their survival; meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of vamps on a way to save humankind.

Ah, the ever-exploited vampire movie. This one had something a little different going for it, though — global vampirism had given way to global starvation. It’s actually a really interesting premise. All in all, though, I can’t say I was too amazed either way, good or bad. It left me kinda feeling meh.

The head hematologist at a vampiric corporation, Edward Dalton, longs for his lost humanity, searching for it in the creation of a blood substitute that would render the need for human farming — a practice his company specializes in, ironically — well, needless. He just so happens to run across a group of very human survivalists one night after work and is introduced to a woman, Audrey, who makes the decision, based off his helping them, to take him to her boss in hopes of finding a cure for vampirism. Her boss, Elvis, is a former vampire, and he wants Edward to help figure out what caused the reversal out of an accident that involved crashing through his car windshield in the middle of the day, burning in the sunlight, before he landed in a nearby lake, astounded to find himself human again.

If you aren’t rolling your eyes by now, like I was, it’s hairier than that. Edward’s brother, Frankie Dalton, is a servicemember. He’s the one who catches Edward in the middle of his erstwhile midday collusion and urges him against it. When other vampire soldiers show up, Edward makes a run for it with Elvis and Audrey. From there, they regroup with a whole host of other survivalists, get discovered, find the cure and return to the corporation for which Edward works.

The Negatives: Elements of this otherwise creative film brought it to a weird, un-uniform mess overall. The band of survivalists was useless to include (and cliche as all get-out) since the cure is rendered like halfway through the film. Elvis, Audrey, Edward and later Frankie carried this whole movie on their shoulders. They could’ve easily done without the underground resistance.

Sam Neill as Charles Bromley in Daybreakers
Charles Bromley, the primary antagonist.

Also, the head of Edward’s vampire corporation, Charles Bromley, has a decent story — he was dying of cancer when the plague reached him, and he viewed it as a second chance, a lasting cure to his imperfect humanity; his daughter, however, thought him a monster, and he despises that the rift between humans and vampires distanced her from him. But then, randomly, he has her kidnapped, brought to his office and turned–by force — by Frankie, who was, for some reason, acting as his personal henchman until his brother returned — and then has her killed along with hundreds of other vampires that have starved for so long that they’ve begun to degenerate into feral creatures that attack any old thing. I fail to see what the point of that little arc was. That Bromley had that motivation was fine. That he had her brought in and asked her to assimilate (willingly be infected with vampirism) was fine. Having Frankie turn her against her will after Bromley locked her up in a small, un-accommodating cell was pointless.

The plot was also painfully transparent. I’m not even one of those critics who tries to figure shit out before it’s revealed; I like being surprised. There was no surprise here. I knew how they’d get the cure. I knew how they’d transferred it from ex-vampire/human to vampire. I knew Edward’s plan. I knew Frankie was gonna sacrifice himself for his brother (a shame because he was a personal favorite of mine).

Oh, and Audrey Bennett is possibly the most forgettable character in all of entertainment history.

Claudia Karvan as Audrey Bennett in Daybreakers
It should be pretty difficult to forget a woman who SHOOTS A FLAMING FUCKIN’ CROSSBOW, should it not?

The Positives lie in the creativity of the premise and, in some areas, its execution. I find it particularly cool that the vampires had developed an underground walkway for daytime travel — like a subway, only more sidewalk, less subs. Little details like that give the story some color where other things — such as the acting — are easy to disregard as silly or cheesy. Another aspect of that was the cars developed to enable daytime driving by darkening all windows and providing a view through cameras. It seems obvious when you think about it, but in a genre where vampires are relegated to “Oh, the sun’s up, I’m just gonna sleep or hide or somethin’,” it’s refreshing to see it regarded as doable. It especially fit the world.

Speaking of the world — the steely grey and blue and false lighted atmosphere that I remember from Underworld re-emerged in Daybreakers with a kind of finesse I loved. On the vampire side, anyway. The corporation with its hard lights and clinically colored walls about epitomized the world Edward had enveloped himself in. Thought it was great.

And then there’s the title. Daybreakers. Doesn’t really make a lot of sense until you watch the whole movie, and that’s a quality I really like in a film. I mean, I’m a sucker for an eye-catching title, and Daybreakers does an awesome job of accomplishing that requisite without abandoning the meaning behind having a title at all- – to sum up the gist of the story it heads, yeah?

Ethan Hawke as Edward Dalton in Daybreakers
The atmosphere. I’m fond of it.

Although I criticize the transparency of Edward’s cure transference, I can’t deny that it was pretty awesome. By drinking the blood of a vampire who’d been cured of his vampirism, you’d receive the cure in turn… I admit, that’s something I would have thought of, and it was cool to watch. Even though Frankie (humanized) died due to this development, and the ensuing bloodbath it engendered from the troops, it kinda healed the wound his death left to know others would be cured because of his sacrifice.

And, plus, imagine the spin-off quality! Daybreakers vs. real-and-true vampires. Vampires would never know which humans to farm… to hunt… which would render them mortal and which would sustain their immortality… I get goose bumps just thinking of it.

Not that I expect there will be a sequel. With incompatible actors, forgettable dialogue and a script I could practically see through even from my living room couch, I don’t expect there will be much of anything left from this tale to squeeze ever again.

It was a good run, though.

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