Old 01-12-2010, 08:48 PM
Michael and Peter Spierig's Daybreakers

A rather interesting twist on the average vampire story. Here's my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:


Daybreakers (2010)

The Spierig Brothers' "Daybreakers" offers an interesting twist on your standard vampire tale. Instead of it being just one or a few vampires causing havoc, imagine if it were nearly the entire world population infected with a disease causing vampirism. On top of that, imagine that the blood supply is running quite low. How would this population get along without the blood they need to survive?

In order to meet the demand for blood, the last remaining humans are hunted daily, drained of their blood, after which it is rationed to the vampire population. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hematologist at a corporation, headed by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), that is trying to come up with a substitute for blood, but so far has been unsuccessful. We learn that Edward is against drinking human blood after a talk with his brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman), a human hunter.

One night, when Edward causes a car to swerve off the road, he meets a human named Audrey (Claudia Karvan). After Edward saves her from the police, she decides that he is trustworthy, and since he is a specialist in blood, she recruits him to help in the humans' cause. She arranges a meeting with another human, Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac (Willem Dafoe), a former vampire who managed to become human again. Using this as a starting point, Edward decides to repeat what happened to 'Elvis' in hopes of finding a cure.

To my knowledge, a story like this hasn't been done before, making it very original, which made it all the more interesting. It's a fascinating thought as to what would be done in a situation like this. Obviously there would be some panic and riots on the street from news of there not being enough blood for everyone.

This is exactly what the film eventually gives us samples of. One such riot is caused when a vampire wants more blood in their coffee, but due to the blood shortage, the clerk is only allowed to put so much in. Another instance shows a homeless vampire wearing a sign indicating he is hungry and needs blood. In desperation, he is willing to attack other vampires to get it.

We are also shown what becomes of those who go without blood for too long. At first, the mental functions begin to slow down, but eventually they turn into what look like giant bats. These creatures are everywhere and are extremely dangerous, though they mainly lurk in the sewer. It's rather amusing to hear one of the vampires refer to the creatures as a "thing."

The way in which 'Elvis' became human again is another leap of originality. I won't spoil it here, but it's like a defibrillator, but on a somewhat larger scale. If this can be duplicated, it could be the salvation of mankind and a return to the way things used to be, that is, if the vampires want to change back.

The performances are not particularly great, but they are good for what this film requires. Ironically, the most human performance comes from Ethan Hawke as a vampire who truly wants to help the hunted humans. Sam Neill isn't given much to do besides look and sound evil, but he does an adequate enough job for the part.

It does fall back on some violence and gore for entertainment purposes, but it's the originality of the story that makes it worth seeing and in an age where we seem to be getting remake after remake, a little originality can go a long way. 3/4 stars.
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