The year is 2019. It has been 10 years since the outbreak of a plague that has caused humans to turn into vampires. The humans who have resisted being turned in order to join the new race have become hunted and farmed for blood. They have become an endangered species. With so few humans left, the blood supply is dwindling and with time and blood running out, researcher Edward Dalton must find a cure to save mankind.
Daybreakers stars Ethan Hawke as Edward Dalton, a vampire research scientist, who is trying to discover a blood substitute so the vampire world can survive. It’s a familiar tale of the protagonist who dwells within an antagonistic society, who should be one of the bad guys, but doesn’t like what he is and is at odds with his own ‘race’, so he’s on the good side and tries to save the world. Yea, that story. However, Daybreakers brings an original storyline to the table. It is unlike any vampire movie before it, even though it has Hollywood formulas.
I believe it should rise to ‘classic’ status eventually, for it did a wonderful job at breaking the genre mold. No detail was left out when putting this film together. The world as we know it has become ‘Vampirized’. From having blood with your evening coffee, to the broadcasted Public Health announcement that informs you have one hour till sunrise. Vampires walk the earth like we do, with day jobs, well, actually night jobs, and there are even homeless with signs who beg not for change, but for blood.
Visually stimulating, the cinematography has a slight film noir feel to it, all awash in dark muted blue tones during the night scenes, which are only highlighted with subtle tones of red, but of course, for this is fitting. Daytime scenes are quite bright, most likely to emphasize contrast between the two ‘worlds’.
Dalton is a torn vampire. He works for Charles Bromley (Sam Neil), who oversees the research and farming facility, where he is trying to develop a blood cure. He hates what society has become and refuses to drink human blood. Bromley just wants a blood substitute for he prefers being a vampire and is all about gaining profits. This is where the battle begins. To make matters worse, Dalton has his own brother Frankie (Michael Dorman), a human hunter, to contend with.
Elvis (played by Willem Dafoe) seeks out Dalton, through a woman named Audrey (played by Claudia Karvan) who Dalton saves earlier in the film and they all team up on the plight to save humanity. I found it quite coincidental that Daybreakers opened up on Elvis’s birthday and there is an Elvis in the movie. Dafoe even sings a few notes of an Elvis song. Are one of the Spierig brothers a die-hard Elvis fan, or am I looking way too into it? Anyway, the battle is not neat and tidy by any means. There is blood, madness and head explosions a plenty. Enough to make any horror movie fan smirk with joy (as I definitely did) but not as campy as say “From Dusk Till Dawn”, by any means.
I enjoyed that the movie was overall serious in tone, and didn’t get carried away with itself, as some movies in this genre do. Albeit, there are a few funny one-liners here and there to break up the tension. My favorite one is said by Elvis after Dalton asks him “Is it safe?” to which Elvis replies “As safe as bare backing a five dollar hooker”. Classic! I also liked that the combat/car chase scenes weren’t gratuitous, they all lent themselves to story, instead of being used as mind numbing theatrics.
The film at heart is an allegory for populations that consume all of its natural resources without a thought of how to replenish them. It is only when it is too late, when man, or should I say vampire, is on the brink of destruction and inevitable death, do they see the dilemma they have caused themselves. However, something far worse than simple death awaits these vampires who have no blood left to drink; they turn in to ‘Subsiders’ and believe you me, it’s not pretty.
If you missed it in the theaters…it’s out on DVD now.
Running time: 98 minutes
Review originally written for Open Book Society.