Sunday, 17 January 2010

Daybreakers Review

My first film review for 2010 is for the vampire flick called Daybreakers. The film stars Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe and Claudia Karvan. It was directed by Michael and Peter Spierrig, the brothers behind the low budget movie, Undead. When I saw the trailer for it last year, I was intrigued enough to add it to my "must see" list. The premise of the film, a near future world in which vampires are the dominant species and humanity are either kept locked away as feeding stock or forced to go underground to eke out a precarious survival is an intriguing one. Could the film live up to the premise? Let's find out!
THE FILM. It is the year 2019 and vampires rule the world. Their numbers have grown exponentially, whilst those of humanity are dwindling. And therein lies a major problem for the vamps. At the rate they are drinking blood soon their supply of humans will have run out. Edward Dalton (played by Ethan Hawke) is a scientist tasked with finding a blood substitute before their natural stock runs out. He works for a huge pharmaceutical corporation, Bromley Marks, run by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). As the film shows early on, only too graphically, the scientists are a long way from success. We also discover what happens to a vampire after it has gone too long without blood - it reverts to a feral beast. Edward encounters a human resistance movement led by Lionel "Elvis" Cormac (Willem Dafoe) and Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan). He is sympathetic to their plight and agrees to help them, especially when he learns that Elvis was once a vampire but is now cured. He moves in with them and is able to replicate that cure. Despite being hunted by a well armed security team from Bromley Marks he returns to Charles to offer all vampires his cure, fully believing a cure is better than a blood substitute. Sadly his timing is rather bad. His former colleagues have made a breakthrough whilst he was away and are preparing a blood substitute to go into full production in two days time. Cue extremely bloody and action-packed finale.
THE REVIEW. Okay, first things first. This film is not going to win any awards for acting or screenplay and nor is it a classic of the horror genre. The acting on the whole was cheesy and both Dafoe and Neill were more akin to panto characters, especially Neill. Hawke struggled to keep up but given his dialogue it was a thankless task. The plot was filled with so many holes and the whole concept of the vampire cure was just laughable and an insult to viewers' intelligence. However, despite all that, I liked it a lot. It kept me entertained for its running time of 98 minutes. I could find so much to criticise it for but I'm not going to.
You see, the film also had a lot to admire. Little touches like how vampires survive from day to day made this fanboy sit up and smile. For example, the concept of smart cars with windows that can block out UV rays was a logical concept. Tunnels and overhead passageways between buildings gave the vamps a way to cross the road during the day without suffering the ultimate sunburn. Coffee shops that substituted blood for milk sprung up. The film was also littered with TV reports from around the world showing just how deep the crisis was growing and these added a documentary air to the proceedings that I certainly appreciated. There were lots of nice little touches that I liked but they all added up. Then there was the ending. I am certainly not going to spoil it for you but it is so gloriously over the top and an absolute bloodfest! That alone made up for much of what went before. All in all I'd rate it 7 out of 10.

Left to right - Ethan Hawke, Claudia Karvan & Willem Dafoe. "We're the folks with the crossbows!"

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