“Let the Blood Wars Begin”
Directed by Michael and Peter Spierg
Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Claudia Karvan
Beginning in 2009, a plague has swept across the globe, converting the majority of the world’s population into vampires. Humanity is a rapidly dwindling resource. Synthetic blood seen as the only alternative to starvation and devolution into monstrous, vampire-eating ‘subsiders’, but a few human survivors and their vampire sympathisers plan to find a different solution; a cure.
Edward Dalton (Hawke) is a liberal vampire haematologist working on substitute blood in the hope of sparing the surviving humans, although his boss, Charles Bromley (Neill, shockingly cast as a monstrous smarmy business type,) is clearly in it for the money and the power. Dalton hooks up with human resistance leader Audrey (Karvan) and ex-vampire Elvis (Dafoe) in an attempt to replicate the circumstances that led to Elvis’ return to humanity.
Meanwhile, in a subplot, Bromley has Dalton’s military brother (Michael Dorman) infect his daughter Alison (Isabel Lucas, upgraded to poster credit presumably on the back of her appearance as the freaky as hell sexbot Alice in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) who drinks her own blood to force her mutation into a subsider.
Dalton finds a cure, and with the surviving human population almost gone, must return for a final showdown with Bromley.
What’s wrong with it?
We open with a cartoon silhouette of a bat flying across the sunset, which doesn’t quite set the right tone for a tense, techno-thriller.
Ethan Hawke appears to have been stoned for years, failing to manage much of an emotion throughout the film. This is actually a problem common to the entire cast; I’m not sure if it’s a thematic decision to emphasise the inhumanity of the vampire characters or a side-effect of the glowy-eyed contact lenses.
The sub-plot with the brother and the daughter really needed a little more development to have the intended emotional effect.
The resolution, in which starving vampire soldiers feed on recovered vampires, get cured and then get fed on by the next wave is a sort of grim farce, which I’m pretty sure is not the effect that they were going for.
The subsiders look a little goofy.
What’s right with it?
Overall, the mood of the film is good, and the understated vampire effects are very effective.
The world of vampires, with its shutters and blacked out cars with cameras on the roof for daytime driving, is well realised.
How bad is it really?
Daybreakers is actually… pretty good. It’s a bit different, decently acted, and well made.
Best bit (if such there is)?
- A passing train plunges a crowd of waiting vampires into shadow, revealing the glow of their eyes and lit cigarettes.
- A surrounded band of survivors shot at the advancing vampire soldiers. The survivors are lit in the constant, cold blue of their floodlights, the vampires sporadically illuminated by the flames as their comrades are staked and explode.
What’s up with…?
- The government? There are senators and an army, but all the soldiers seem to answer pretty directly to Bromley.
Production values – The bulk of the film is pretty well made. The subsiders are the exception, looking like something out of the Evil Dead movies. 7
Dialogue and performances – Ethan Hawke’s essential Ethan Hawkeness is a bit of a stumbler, and there are no amazing moments of writing, but the rest of the cast are solid and there are no howlers either. 8
Plot and execution – It’s a good story, and the vampire-centric universe is a bit different to the standard. There are a few moments where it’s all too coincidental and the emotional heart is lacking, but it’s otherwise solid. 9
Randomness – The very last sweep of humans picks up the boss’s daughter; chance delivers the ‘easy’ cure. It’s as if they got to the 3/4 mark and realised that they needed a gear shift. 8
Waste of potential – A pretty good entry in a crowded field, although the last quarter and the creature effects could have done with a little more work. 4