Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Directed by: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill
A bleak future is on the horizon if Daybreakers is anything to go by. A film that shows the world only seven years away (ten when the film was released) run by vampires with only a few remaining humans still fighting for the race. Starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe this vampire flick, where it’s more unusual to be normal than it is a bloodsucker, is like no other.
In 2019 95% of the population are vampires who feed off human blood. With only 5% of the people on Earth being human their major source of food is on the verge of coming to an abrupt end, meaning the vampires will die out by becoming mutated savages through their un-quenching thirst. Edward Dalton (Hawke) is a scientist drafted in by corporate boss Charles Bromley (Neill) to create a blood substitute so the vampires can survive. His company hooks humans up to giant machines and farms them for blood and his is one of the only companies who still charge top money for 100% pure human blood as opposed to others who have rationed their supply out. When a trial on human testing goes horribly wrong Edward starts to question if there’s actually a cure for their kind instead of a substitute. He sympathises with the humans, especially since he used to be one. After a close encounter with a mutated vampire craving human blood he’s approached by Audrey (Karvan) one of the last remaining humans. She claims to need his help to rebuild the human race. Edward agrees to help when he meets Elvis (Dafoe) who was once a vampire himself only to find an unusual way to cure himself and change back. The humans hope that Edward can recreate the device to cure the vampires in order to keep their race alive.
The film is full of some really interesting ideas. It’s an unusual take on the usual vampire flick and Hawke makes us sympathise with a bloodsucker. The blacked out windows on their cars used to protect them during the day, the curfew an hour before sunrise, the human blood farm, the coffee shops that sell blood with their coffee are all a good way of imagining if the world was actually run like this. The vampires are the dominant race and going to work or catching the train is an everyday thing for them – the world has adapted to meet their needs instead of humans. The Spierig Brothers have given us a vampire film which looks at ethnic cleansing, curing disease, and corrupt business moguls who only care about money. In a supernatural world they have managed to centre it on human aspects.
The colours of the film are amazing and reminded me of a film noir with a twist. In the vampire world everything is done at night and the colours are neon blue on a dark backline. It’s really prominent and stands out, making the vampires look pale and cold against the remaining humans.
The cinematography is crisp and adds to the look and feel of a future that has evolved. The human blood farm is a different idea and looks frightening when seeing live humans hooked up to a giant machine whilst their blood is pumped from them. There are many good ideas within this film that erase the memory of any terrible vampire films made over the past few years.
Whilst there are great points to Daybreakers, there are unfortunately just as many bad points. The acting for starters is fairly average – not terrible but it’s not going to blow you away. The dialogue at times seems fairly unrealistic and too many lines are wasted explaining to the audience what’s going on instead of the characters just inhabiting their world. The music is uninspiring and seems completely out of place in this futuristic world. It’s a score we’ve heard many times before in old school action or drama films and instead of drawing me in it actually pushed me out of the action. The end of the film turns into a bit of a typical shoot out, which is a shame when to begin with it felt like such an innovative plot. I found the dark drama elements of the film much more pleasing to watch than the generic action.
For the first time we see a vampire film that is unusual and explores areas that haven’t been mentioned within the genre before. If the film had carried on in the direction of the first half it would be a hell of a lot better, but unfortunately the second half loses the dark depth.
In the end what we’re left with is an intriguing idea that, although well directed, sadly has as many bad points as it does good ones.