In the words of Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac (Willem Dafoe), “Life’s a bitch, and then you don’t die.” Hopefully, the days of the glittery brooding vampire will come to an end and the creatures can return to their roots. Not necessarily the Count ‘I vant to suck your blood’ roots, but at least to where vampires were badasses. Twilight fans beware, Daybreakers is on the way and Edward Cullen stands no chance against these bloodsuckers. They’re fierce, they’re powerful and incredibly hungry. Mind your jugular because Daybreakers is a wild ride packed with innovation, blood and a whole lot of fun.
I’ll take a large coffee, two sugars, hold the milk and add some blood. So is life in 2019, after a plague turns nearly every human into a vampire. Everything looks as you’d expect ten years into the future. No flying cars, but an abundance of chic skyscrapers and tons of advanced technology. The big difference? Those living in the world of the future sport beady orange eyes and a set of fangs you wouldn’t want anywhere near your neck. The vampire population sees their dream of living forever crash and burn, when their blood supply runs dangerously low. It starts with city lowlifes, but before they know it, their blood-deprived neighbors are turning into rabid bat-like creatures called subsiders.
Bromley Marks blood bank, a facility once filled with captured humans ripe for blood harvesting, is running low on supply and ruthlessly hunting down every last person with a pulse. Elvis and Audrey (Dafoe and Claudia Karvan) are two of those humans and are desperately trying to keep those like them safe while trying to find a cure for those who have been turned. Luckily they run into just the guy they need, Bromley Marks’ chief hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) and a vampire who refuses to indulge in human blood. The company insists Ed devise a blood substitute, but he knows it’s not a substitute they need, but a cure. Thanks to his new friends, he’s closer to that discovery than he could have ever imagined.
Daybreakers takes vampires and makes them feel real. If they existed, this is how it would play out. One bloodsucker bites a human, that human turns and goes after another until the entire population is afraid of the sun. It’s a fascinating premise and a similarly enthralling world is built around it. Blood harvesting! What a sensible idea. The sight of Bromley Marks’ massive blood bank with hundreds of humans dangling from the extractors is as moving on screen as it is in the film’s posters.
A company of such immensity and immorality needs a heartless monster to run it and damn does Sam Neill give us one. Neill is Charles Bromley and he’s pretty creepy. Equally immersed in his character, naturally, is Willem Dafoe. Not only does he provide the majority of the film’s comic relief, but during Daybreakers’ slower segments, he’s there to drag it along and keep the audience connected. Also noteworthy is Michael Dorman as Ed’s brother Frankie and the more hardy of the two. He’s an absolute natural on screen and has a way of making you hate him for his foolhardiness, yet wonder if you’d make the same choices in his situation.
The film’s shining star has yet to be addressed because, well, Hawke is rather lackluster in this role. But don’t blame Hawke, instead blame writers/directors Michael and Peter Spierig for creating such a dull character. He’s there to bring the whole story together but nothing more. The same goes for his female counterpart. Audrey is just there. There’s no real meat to the character. Luckily Isabel Lucas brings some life to the film’s female roster. She has only a few scenes, but manages to make them memorable.
Lags in a movie’s pace are an instant killer, yet it’s easy to overlook Daybreakers’ draggy moments. The film slows significantly at the midpoint, but everything else is such a blast it blends in almost unnoticeably. Even some laughable special effects are strangely appropriate. The power of the Spierig Brothers is mighty and it’ll be impossible to sit down for this effort without becoming completely absorbed in their futuristic world of vampire clichés and novelties. The cinematography is on point, the screenplay creatively developed and then, to the horror fan’s delight, both are doused with enough blood to make a wildly refreshing vampire movie.