Posted by: Dr P | January 22, 2010

Daybreakers

There’s always been a fascination with the undead, and particularly vampires, the “sexy” relation of the undead hordes. Zombies are gross, vamps are hot. The latest film to cash in on the Buffy/Twilight/Blade market is “Daybreakers”. Following the recent trend for this sort of movie to focus on a post-apocalyptic world, a mass outbreak of infection has caused the vast majority of the population to gain a new appreciation for blood sucking while small bits of humanity cling on for dear life, and in many cases, are kept alive and in storage as “blood banks” for the vamps. It’s quite like life in Rochdale (but sexier).

Yet some vamps have a conscience, and do not feed on human blood. One such chap is the film’s central character, Edward Dalton (the splendid Ethan Hawke). It’s 2019, and Dalton works at the main company which supplies human blood. As humanity is starting to dwindle away, there’s a pressing need for a real “blood substitute”; Dalton leads the team which is trying to synthesise this. Sadly, all experiments to date have failed – indeed we see one such attempt to infuse a vamp with a blood substitute – it all goes ok until he has an averse reaction and ultimately explodes. The gorefest commences at that point!

Enter a small band of humans who are attempting to lead the fight against the vamps. Astonishingly, their leader “Elvis” (Willem Dafoe) was a vamp but by a bizarre combination of luck and sunlight exposure somehow regained his humanity – and he recruits Dalton to try and repeat the cure as a hope for both worlds.

Of course, the vamp world is less ready for a cure, with corporate head honcho Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) an advocate of pure human blood, and definitely not keen on the idea of a substitute replacing the human red matter!

The film is a pretty stylish sci-fi effort; the twist here is that a cure for vampirism (as opposed to ritual staking, sunlighting, beheading) has been found and the battle is on for the survival of both species! It rapidly turns into a gorefest, as the corporate vamps hunt down the last bands of humans, while Dalton is on a race against time a) to replicate the cure and b) to work out how to apply it to the massed ranks of Undead in his way.

There’s a fairly uncomfortable side plot in which Bromley discovers his daughter and turns her into a vamp, with quite horrifying results. There’s a good subtext of tough family relationships, but it doesn’t take up much screen time and is a reasonable addition, mainly to further dehumanise Sam Neill’s character.

And then there’s the gore. The last third of the movie pulls no punches, as this is where many of the fight scenes take place, and people get shredded left, right and centre. It’s slightly nauseating by the end and we appear no closer to a reolution one way or the other.

In many ways this movie is quite reminiscent of Gattaca and movies of that ilk – a stylised future world in which a small band of “outcasts” (in this case humanity) are kept very much to the side, while the big corporations struggle for world domination. Intriguingly Hawke was very good in that other movie, and he brings his experience to bear here, playing Dalton’s tortured soul pretty well. He also has to deal with his brother, who is more of a hardcore anti-human vamp soldier, specifically trained to track down humans for the blood supply!

It’s worth a view if you’re a vamp fan or like your sci-fi with an edge. Not the greatest film and there are plenty of good alternatives around. Fairly forgettable in the end, but a few nice twists on the genre and not a bad way to pass a couple of hours!

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