Capone says DAYBREAKERS reminds us that real vampires have fangs and don't sparkle!!!
Published at: Jan. 8, 2010, 9:33 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey, everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
It's no secret that the world is being bombarded with vampire movies and TV shows. The best of the recent crop is Sweden's LET THE RIGHT ONE IN; there's no debating that. It's a fact, so shut up. But I put to you that coming in at a close second is this week's DAYBREAKERS, a science-fiction terror film with a deep subtext about exploiting natural resources and human greed. Rightfully and blessedly so, the film also features nasty monsters, gore galore (both thanks to WETA Workshop), and an exceptional cast of actors, led by Ethan Hawke as a blood researcher and reluctant vampire (he refuses to drink human blood) determined to find a blood substitute before the human blood supply runs out in a world dominated by vampires.
Written and directed by The Spierig Brothers (Undead), the movie has a style, look, and sense of future place that is so complete and well thought out, my only complaint about DAYBREAKERS is that it's too short; I wanted more of this fascinating world that functions almost exclusively at night. During the day, small pockets of free humans roam the earth essentially doing nothing more than finding new and better places to hide from the military, whose sole purpose in this time of diminishing natural resources (i.e., human blood) is to track down humans and turn them over to companies like the one owned by Hawke's boss, played with eccentric menace by Sam Neill, to farm their blood for as long as they can be kept alive. Some less than scrupulous vamps have taken to feeding on each other, which leads to some truly nasty, primal consequences. What I love about the film is that it makes it clear that just because we have all become vampires doesn't make us any smarter or less greedy; it just makes us immortal.
Much like works such as DARK CITY, the retro atmosphere of DAYBREAKERS makes the steely gray world of vampires all the more timeless and noir-ish, especially in contrast to the daylight human world full of color and warmth. Hawke's stance on drinking human blood and the fact that he was "turned" against his will by his soldier brother make him a prime target of the humans to help them with a little experiment that their leader Elvis (a swaggering Willem Dafoe) devised to solve everybody's problems. But many of the upper-echelon vampires (including Neill) who have access to the remaining blood supply don't see the need for a cure for their condition, and it doesn't take long for Hawke to realize what his true mission in life needs to be.
DAYBREAKERS never stopped impressing me with its fully realized alternate reality, everything from coffee served with blood instead of milk to the customized cars that vampires can drive during the day to the truly gruesome glimpses of what exactly a human-blood farm would look like. The scenes with the humans aren't quite as interesting, and maybe seem a bit too cookie-cutter renegade/living-underground outcast that we've seen in other movies. Thankfully, Dafoe is on hand to erase all of our concerns and give us yet another studied, badass performance--the perfect blending of stone-cold warrior and easy-going charmer. He's a great counterpoint to Hawke's somber, reflective character, who may be one of the few vampires who truly sees the world for what it is and understands that human nature hasn't changed just because the world's inhabitants now have fangs.
The carefully constructed environments that are both very much like our world (this film is only set 10 years in the future) and vampire world reminded me a lot of what writer-director Andrew Niccol did 12 years ago with GATTACA, also featuring Hawke. If I could flaw the film for anything, it's being too short in its running time (under 100 minutes). I wanted to see more of this other vamp-centric world, but the fact that I was so engrossed in Daybreakers to the point where I wanted an extra 20 minutes in the middle somewhere speaks volume as to its power and ability to draw me in and make me invested in their characters and their way of living/unliving. I also passionately love that this is an original screenplay from The Spierig Brothers; the world needs more original horror, end of story. They manage to incorporate a good deal of traditional vampire lore in a story that stays far away from the Gothic, dreamy, romantic type storytelling that his poisoned the vampire well of late. I'm sorry, but I like my vampire with fangs, ripping throats, and transforming into giant bat-like creatures. And no fucking sparkling. Support DAYBREAKERS as quality horror and forget that it's a vampire movie; it's actually much more than just a vampire film, and I love it for everything it accomplishes in furthering the genre.
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