Daybreakers throws us into the year 2019, with an opening credit sequence littered with signs like, “School Zone 2AM – 3AM” and toothpaste ads for fangs. With all that pastiche out of the way, the movie then really settles into its groove of presenting a “believable” futuristic world, where a vampire virus has taken over all but a small handful of humans. The remaining humans are suspended and subsequently drained, by the civilized, dapperly dressed vamps. Blood is on the verge of running out, however, and that’s where the conflict arises.
Ethan Hawke stars as Ed, a conflicted, human-friendly hematologist who’s been subsiding without human blood. But even he’s beginning to feel the effects of not having the real thing – mentally and physically. His crippled ear is nothing compared to what the real fear for vamps is. Underground, blood deprived vampires are slowly turning into winged, bat-like monsters. His boss (Sam Neil) warns Ed that if a blood substitute isn’t found soon, each vampire is fated to turn in their debonair wardrobe in exchange for becoming a total fucking monster.
Thickening the plot are Ed’s brother, Frankie, the guy who was never “too good at being human” and now works for the army as a human-hunter; the growing deformed vamps who are not only breaking into houses, but attacking other vamps, and vamp coffee shops; and the band of human resistors Ed encounters, led by Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and Elvis (Willem Dafoe) who proclaim to have a cure. But does everyone want to be cured? Writers/directors Peter and Michael Spierig don’t opt for the norm route of vampire sexiness here, but instead use the script to focus on more topical metaphors, like Big Business and Fighting The Man.
On the acting end, there aren’t too many complications presented to really trip anyone up. Ethan Hawke is practiced as the skeptical hero, ditto to Sam Neil as the greedy bad guy. I’m incapable of speaking badly against Willem Dafoe, but the surface is only just scratched with everything he could bring to that character – and perhaps one day will – if given more to do.
There’s a couple head-scratching holes glossed over in the story and a few non-intentional lulz (namely surrounding the cure), but the movie is fun and gets pretty bloody, with a real Caligula scene of violence at the end. The Spierigs payed ridiculous attention to the visual details of their world, and the story is littered with great touches – how vampires drive their cars in the day, underground walking systems, and the blared warnings til sundown, among others. Anyone interested in the trailer would do well to check it out. Next up for the Spierigs is a reimagining of Captain Blood… a gig they secured by pitching the classic story as set in space. However it pans out, the Australian Brothers have proved, with Daybreakers, a commitment to style and story.