What would happen if there were more vampires than humans in the world and blood was in short supply? That’s the premise behind Daybreakers, a fun, stylish sci-fi horror film from Australian filmmakers (and twin brothers) Michael and Peter Spierig.
The vampire population is starving and without blood they’re transforming into hideous bat-like creatures causing chaos on the streets. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a researcher for Bromley/Marks — a pharmaceutical firm developing a form of synthetic blood by harvesting humans. Dalton refuses to drink human blood and is more interested in finding a cure to turn vampires back into humans. His boss, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) doesn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be a vampire and is more concerned with turning a profit on the blood substitute than saving the world.
Through a series of events Dalton ends up joining a group of humans, led by Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac (Willem Dafoe) and Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan), who have been working on a cure for the vampire disease themselves. When Bromley realizes Dalton has gone AWOL he recruits Dalton’s brother Frankie, a human-hunting soldier in the Vampire Army, to track down and kill him. Lots of running, hiding, and blood splattering ensues. And when I say “blood splattering” I mean loads of gore.
Right off the bat (no pun intended) the unique futuristic world of Daybreakers hooked me. There’s an underground sidewalk system called a Subwalk (so that vampires can get around during the day), cars and houses have special shielded windows, and “coffee shops” employing attendants in nurse uniforms serve up different types of plasma out of blood bags. All these small details stand out and help elevate Daybreakers to the league of films such as Dark City and The Matrix rather than just another B-grade entry.
Hawke and Neill are fine in their parts and help give the movie a soul, but it’s Dafoe who steals the show. His portrayal of a cross-bow-toting, one-liner-spouting vampire killer is gold and was a lot more fun to watch than Wesley Snipes’s vampire-hunting Blade character. Karvan also stood out and did a great job kicking butt along with the men. With so many credits to her name I’m surprised she wasn’t on my radar sooner. She is now.
The Spierig Brothers have definitely left a mark with Daybreakers. If you’re looking for a different take on the tired vampire genre this should satisfy your needs.
*** out of 5 stars
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Top image: Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe in Daybreakers. Courtesy Maple Pictures.