Thursday, June 3, 2010
DAYBREAKERS (2009). Written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig.
Taking its cue from such films as The Last Man on Earth, Omega Men [a remake of the first film], comics like Planet of the Vampires and so on, Daybreakers presents an Earth in which a plague of vampirism has erupted through the world and only 5% of the population are human. Although humans are captured and harvested for their blood, there is still a severe shortage, resulting in violent outbreaks by "subsiders," the name for vampires who attack other vampires and drink non-human blood. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a vampire with a social conscience who is trying to come up with a substitute for blood so that the human race he once belonged to won't become extinct. His boss, Bromley (Sam Neill) believes that even if he invents a substitute there will always be vampires who want and can afford the real thing. Dalton's brother Frankie (Michael Dorman) is a hunter who captures humans and the very one who turned his brother into a vampire. Edward hooks up with a band of humans fighting to hold on to their humanity, which include Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and "Elvis" (Willem Dafoe) who's discovered the way to turn a vampire back into a human.
Daybreakers is one of the more intriguing treatments of vampirism. The film has real suspense and is directed with flair and assurance. Hawke, Dafoe, Neill and the others turn in fine performances that help you stay absorbed in what's happening on the screen. There are some powerful moments such as when a bunch of deteriorating "subsiders," including Bromley's daughter Allison (Isabel Lucas), are forced into the sun where they burst into flames and become ashes. Since the film is not afraid to have "humanistic" moments, it seems a shame that its intelligence is blunted by obligatory, over-familiar and dumbed-down moments of extreme gore meant to please the Fangoria crowd but which aren't really necessary in a film of real quality. They prevent Daybreakers from being the outstanding horror drama that for much of its length it is.
Verdict: Comes close to being a very memorable horror film. ***.