Review: Daybreakers

Posted by: Kyle Tetarenko  //  January 8, 2010 @ 1:22am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

Amidst the current trend of film studios trying to capitalize on the resurgence in vampire popularity, Daybreakers arrives with a glimpse of a future where vampires have become the dominant species while the remaining humans are tracked down and harvested for their blood.

In the wake of a strange viral outbreak, the year is 2019 and the world's governments have come to the conclusion that the dwindling supply of human blood will only last another thirty days until there is nothing left. Without a supply of human blood, the vampire population will revert into a primal version of themselves consumed by bloodlust and aggression. This drives the vampire population to take desperate measures; some vampires feed on themselves and each other while others have begun to riot in demand of more blood.

Ethan Hawke plays haematologist, Edward Dalton, who is attempting to create a viable blood substitute for the vampire population. After an unsuccessful trial of the blood substitute and a chance encounter, Dalton becomes entangled with a group of rebel humans. Lead by Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac, played by Willem Dafoe, the rebels are trying to find a cure for vampirism and repopulate the human race.

Sam Neil plays Charles Bromley, the CEO of one of the larger blood harvesting companies which employs Edward Dalton. After Dalton sides with the human rebels, Bromley makes every effort to retrieve him in order to continue his work on the blood substitute. With the supply of human blood quickly disappearing, so are the profits in his company and he will take any measure to keep his company out of the red.

Directors Michael and Peter Spierig show us their vision of a vampire apocalypse in a sleek fashion with often dramatic lighting but the overall direction of the movie fails to impress. Others have noted that the noir tone in the film is captured but that is untrue. I was unable to sympathize with most of the characters and there is a romance in the film that lacks chemistry and seems outright forced.

We've seen Sam Neil in the horror genre before such as the movie, Event Horizon, but his character like others in Daybreakers, is very one dimensional. Ethan Hawke's portrayal of Edward Dalton is filled with angst but we have seen him give similar and better performances in films like Gattaca or Assault on Precinct 13. In his supporting role, Willem Dafoe is able to give brief stints of comic relief which are a welcome relief. Dafoe was the saving grace of the film by bringing charm and nuance into dialogue that would have failed in the hands of another actor.

The idea that vampires have become the superior race on earth is a fresh take on the subgenre but never seems fully executed. There are gaps in the plot throughout the movie and I find more every time I look back on it. For example, what caused the vampire outbreak? This crucial plot point is ignored in favour action scenes and special effects blood. Also, why isn't animal blood considered a viable substitute? This is somewhat addressed in the movie but largely ignored.

Although Daybreakers had a fantastic trailer, the film itself is marred by poor special effects and bad character development. While the idea of the movie is unique, its approach is not and it is neither intelligent nor entertaining. The first half of the movie begins as a serious film; by the second half, it has become a bad display of campy film making. Daybreakers could stand to take a lesson from the foreign film, Let the Right One In, which combines both intelligence and chilling thrills in a vampire film.

Tags: Daybreakers, Ethan Hawke, Sam Neil, Willem Dafoe, Vampires, Blood, Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

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