Twitter Plot Summary: Humanity’s on its way out thanks to rampant vampirism. Ethan Hawke’s trying to find a blood substitute.
Director: Michael Spierig/Peter Spierig
Key Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe, Chris Caruso, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas.
Five Point Summary:
1. Only 5% of humans left, blood running out… could get grim.
2. I like the technology in the car – nice tinted glass.
3. He’s a human called Elvis, yet he looks like Willem Dafoe.
4. Sunlight. It’s the best therapy.
5. Now that’s an interesting way of possibly spreading a cure.
It looks like any other city, albeit one bathed in darkness and lit with that strange, otherworldly bluish green tint that would usually indicate that you’re in the Matrix. A guy approaches a stall where he’s served a bag of blood. Say what now?! Yep, that’s right, this isn’t Kansas anymore. Although actually it could be as all the cities and states you’d expect to find are still present and correct. Daybreakers wins from the start just by showing us an aspect of the vampire story that we’ve never really seen before. After a plague caused by a vampire bat turns those affected into blood sucking creatures of the night, vampires become the dominant species on the planet and, as the number of surviving humans dwindles, the vampire race faces extinction. Whilst they do have bags of blood to survive on, for now at least, scientists such as Ethan Hawke’s Edward Dalton are researching a substitute for the dwindling blood stocks. At that point he has a chance encounter with some humans who may have a cure for the whole vampirism thing. Cue story.
Where the film triumphs, other than the innovative concept, is in its production design. For a dark film (most of it’s set at night, after all) it’s always clear what you’re seeing (unless that’s not the point, naturally), and lighting is used to great effect. It’s dark and dingy yet the science fiction feel never goes away. I also liked the vehicle modifications that allow vampires to drive around during daylight, essentially a high tech version of the “blacking out the windows” technique as seen in Near Dark.
Conflict is provided by Dalton’s brother Frankie (Dorman) who’s not only a hothead but also a soldier who hunts humans. Naturally they butt heads because they’re brothers and they’re ideologically opposed. Throw in a hefty dose of Willem Dafoe as a human who has a cure for vampirism – and let’s face it, Willem Dafoe is always a hefty dose – and you have a recipe for an engaging story full of… well, little twists and turns.
On the subject of the cast, Sam Neill needs to do more films like this, he’s vastly underused the majority of the time and there’s something deliciously sinister about him as vampire overlord Charles Bromley. I’ll admit right now, I’m not all that keen on the character names, but then they do represent the world the vampires have left behind so I will allow that point. I would have preferred to have seen more of what the world has become, and it feels that there are chunks of backstory and exposition that were left on the cutting room floor. I guess you could say it feels a little anaemic. The story with Dalton and Alison, without dropping into spoilers territory, needed more room to breathe and for everything to really sink in. On my first viewing I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, as if the director had accidentally skipped a few pages of script and left them out of the edit. Other than that, it’s an entertaining mix of vampire myth and science fiction, and a thoroughly enjoyable viewing.
Favourite scene: When vampires don’t get enough blood, they turn into giant vampire creatures. Ethan Hawke and Michael Dorman show you how to deal with them.
Quote: “Yeah well, life is a bitch ain’t it? Then you don’t die.”
Silly Moment: What happens when a vampire blows up? Erm… same thing as everything else. It goes everywhere.