WARNING: Daybreakers is not a film for everyone and neither are its Australian filmmakers, The Spierig Brothers. For those of you who do not know them by now, their break out movie was 2003 cult horror movie, Undead. Essentially, these two brothers are the unspoken princes of “B” horror movies which are essentially films that are “so bad its good”. Because of the flawed nature of B movies, the audience for them are varied. Most of the films that are released that adhere to the genre are either beloved or revered for their awkward style that matches innovation. Does the Spierig Brothers’ film boost movies into a welcome new year or does it just flop on it’s toothless face?
Here’s the thing, its hard to convey whether or not Daybreakers is truly a good film because of its demeanor. Is it a fast paced thriller filled with imagination and awesome death sequences? No, it’s not. Is it a high fructose corn syrup-filled good time? Kind of? Basically, Daybreakers is a vampire film for fans of old depictions of them. This includes all the good and bad films that strictly carry out the formal dogma of vampire lore. Not one vampire in the flick is really looked at as cool. Instead, the vision of the film is more geared towards a demonic and stagnant human race that constantly delves in unhealthy vices simply for the fact that as long as they feed on blood, their immortality will make it of no consequence to them. Whether you like the film or not, this golden vision of vampires is truly frightening because of the social implications that lure you to their lifestyle. However, the scariest part is the fact that one must give up their life force in order to become one of them and their indoctrination is gruesome as well as blood-filled. I’m not saying that the film itself is scary, but it does bring up the frightening aspect of the vampiric culture versus the new-age hipster vision where vampires are just glitter filled emo-kids.
The film takes place in an alternate version of the near future (there are many references to a 2009 which makes it alternate). Vampires are the ruling force of the world and the last humans are either being kept in a comatose state to be farmed for their blood or are captured as they run from their nocturnal enemies. The main character, Edward Dalton (played cheesily by Ethan Hawke) who is a hematologist working for a blood company that is looking to find an alternate food source to replace human blood once they have all become extinct (which usually happens when you try and farm an animal for years and years, they often can not sustain themselves). As Ed and his team are about to see a breakthrough in their work, he meets a team of humans who swear that they have found a cure to vampirism. Ed is then faced with a question of loyalty to either race and must make a choice between humanity and vampires.
- The plot of the film has interesting tropes but is overall written to be a pile of swiss cheese, holes and all. Every main character is a caricature of an archetype in a film you have seen before that is better than this one. That does not mean that the whole thing is garbage. Instead, you have a diverse ensemble that offers a different view of the world that the story inhabits. The highlights of the ensemble are Sam Neil’s portrayal of a ruthless vampire wanting only the security of his immortality, Willem Dafoe’s gear-head bad ass who ushers in some comedy from time to time, and Ethan Hawke’s performance as Ed really keeps you watching despite the head turning moments.
- You can tell that nothing but love went into the crafting of the vamps for this film. The Spierig Brothers confessed their love of zombies in their last outing and here they are definitely showing the golden age of the nocturnal monster here. From the glowing vampire eyes to the constant chain-smoking and the lack of reflections in the mirror, it was certainly refreshing to see such a careful take on the horror sub-genre.
- The “curing” sequence at the end was simply sweet. Without spoiling anything, I am going to make one scene in particular into my desktop background for a very, very long time. Thinking about it now just makes me smile.
- The more detailed that the plot got, the more it turned me off. The only reason why I tolerated some of the writing was because I knew the filmmakers’ style before walking into the theater. For some people watching, they will want to march out of the theater shaking their heads in fury as they wonder why they spent ten dollars on the flick. This is why I am suggesting to everyone reading this review to watch Undead before venturing out to see Daybreakers, as it will keep you in a particular frame of mind while watching this one. This is not so much my personal “nay”, so much as it is the haters’ number one reason behind their hater-ade.
- The starving mutations that the movie dwells upon for about 40 minutes really did not live up to their potential. Yes, we do get one blood-splattering action scene with one of them, but why did we need to sit through so much buildup of the characters scrambling to avoid these horrors and we see no real reason why. In fact, there is a chain-linked sunlight march that almost feel like the mutations aren’t all that much to worry about. Meh.
- Isabel Lucas and Michael Dorman are absolutely awful and it’s not so much the directors’ fault so much as its the fault of hollywood for allowing them to be considered “talented”. Both undersell their characters and are basically on screen to collect a paycheck and put asses in the seats (Isabel Lucas anyways).
There are a few ways to look at this movie. Either you like it’s treatment of the B movie genre and its vampire lore or you hate the composition of the film so much that it drives you insane. I am in the first group as I liked this film and want to see more from these brothers of horror. However, even the cult kids may look at the film and feel a bit of “it’s not you, its me”.