Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman
2019 – ten years after a virus turned the majority of the world’s population into vampires and time is running out as the world’s supply of humans is drying out. Without human blood, the vampires will regressively mutate into a race of feral bat-creatures, finally losing the last vestiges of their humanity. Edward Dalton (Hawke), is chief scientist in a haematology lab tasked with finding a blood substitute. However, Edward wants to save the human race and when he helps a group of humans evade capture, it brings him into contact with “Elvis” Cormac, who might have something even better than a substitute...
Daybreakers manages to give a new perspective into the vampire genre, by exploring what happens when the Vamps rule the world. As it turns out, life carries on more or less as usual, except everyone lives and works by night. When it’s necessary to travel by day, there are underground tunnels or you could have your car equipped with cameras and special light-blocking windows. Rather than drink blood outright, it’s mostly taken in coffee.
These vampires are different to the usual approach. The virus hit the world 10 years previously so there is no “ancient society” as portrayed in Lestat, Twilight or True Blood. While some accept their new condition with open arms, such as corporate head Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) does, others aren’t so enthused. Edward for example was forced to become a vampire by his brother.
One of the interesting concepts explored is that of cerebral development. The film begins with a “teenage” vampire committing suicide, while Edward notes a bunch of teen vamps hanging out on the street corner. These kids are ten years older than they look, but they’re still acting as kids. They are doomed to look like kids for the rest of their existence but unlike Kirsten Dunst in Interview with a Vampire, they don’t act like adults trapped in a child’s body.
The mech and tech of Daybreakers is a geek’s delight. The vampire soldiers’ weapons fire sleeping darts rather than bullets – humans need to be kept alive so their blood can be harvested on a regular basis. The soldiers also have daylight armour and vehicles. The humans meanwhile carry high-powered, quick-loading crossbows and ultra-violet lamps.
All the special effects and production design are top quality too. You really feel immersed in this alternate reality. The Sub-dwellers – the mutated vamps starved of human blood – are excellent creations and we get an up-close look at one quite early on.
Cinematography is superb, with a clear definition between the cobalt-blue nights inhabited by the vampires and the sun-blasted daytimes. One scene has Edward attending a clandestine meeting at noon in a field where the only shade is provided by an oak tree. He has to physically step around the shafts of light coming between the branches.
Daybreakers sticks to traditional, Bram Stoker vampire lore. When we first “meet” Edward, its through the reflection of his car mirror, so we only see his clothes – vamps cannot be reflected in silver-backed mirrors. Most vamps also smoke – this is to give the impression that they are actually breathing, when in fact they aren’t.
Whilst the posters for
lazily claim that it’s a cross between The Matrix (oh, there’s a fight in a lobby – it’s like the Matrix) and 28 days later (...), Daybreakers shares more thematically with Kurt Wimmer’s Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale. Both films deal with a man on the inside who eventually helps the resistance using his position and influence.
I realise I’ve kind of talked around the film without saying much about it at all. Suffice to say, Daybreakers is the first class action movie of the year, the Speirig Brothers are talents to look out for in the future and here’s hoping for more adventures in the world of Vamps.
8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)
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