Don’t bother trying to understand the curious logic of Daybreakers, in which the world of the not-too-distant
future is overrun with vampires and mankind teeters on the brink of extinction.
a familiar scenario, treated oh-so-seriously by Australian directors
Michael and Peter Spierig, whose no-budget 2005 debut, Undead,
was sloppy but diverting enough to earn them a call-up to the bigs.
This time they’ve upped the ante with expensive-looking CGI, handsome
cinematography and a veteran cast featuring Ethan Hawke and Willem
Dafoe, and the improvement is marked.
Given the shortage of
fresh blood in the world, hematologist Edward Dalton (Hawke) is a very
important man indeed. Charged with designing a synthetic substitute,
he’s running out of time, and afoul of his bosses. His experiments
yield modest success in primates but reduce vamps to so much splatter.
a more radical solution exist? Elvis (Dafoe) – a champion of the human
resistance, not the undead Vegas crooner – thinks so. A former
bloodsucker, he claims to have discovered a cure for vampirism, one
that brings the body and soul back to life. Is he for real, or just
another loose screw in a world full of them?
would bristle at the notion of shuffling the mortal coil back on, but
Edward keeps an open mind. He sees no glory in the annihilation of
humans, and besides, there’s not enough natural blood to sustain a
world of bottom-feeders. If there’s an alternative to famine, he will
find it. In doing so, he creates a new enemy: Charles Bromley (Sam
Neill), the reptilian entrepreneur who hopes to mass-produce a blood
Daybreakers is too apolitical to qualify as
social satire, though it speaks in no uncertain terms to the dangers of
exhausting the earth’s resources. As the latest entry in the vampire
sweepstakes, its approach is refreshingly old-fashioned: Rather than
romanticizing its bloodsuckers, as has been the trend in the Twilight movies and HBO’s True Blood,
it sees them as bogeymen empowered. Freed from the shadows, they own the night.
This is the kind of movie that creates
its own mythology, and while Daybreakers
adheres to the rules of the genre – its vampires can neither see their
shadows nor expose themselves to natural light – it introduces at least
one significant new wrinkle. What is it? I’m not telling, except to say
it works best the less you think about it. The same could be said for
the movie, which is nicely acted, aggressively paced and a whole lot of