Movie review: Daybreakers

I must admit to suffering a bit of vampire fatigue after being bombarded by the 1-2 punch of “Twilight” and “True Blood” over the past year, so I was loath to support anything that might continue the “vampire craze.”

After seeing “Daybreakers,” I don’t think I’ll have anything to worry about, since it doesn’t bring anything new to the table besides some icky gore effects.

You’d think, after the countless vampire flicks that have been made, that talented filmmakers would be hesitant about going down the same path, yet time and again, we get the same old stuff with slightly different twists.

In “Daybreakers,” I’m assuming that twist is the fact that it’s set in a neo-noirish 2019, when nearly the entire planet’s population has been converted to vampires, and people live their day-to-day lives drinking blood, avoiding the sun and following other handy vampire rules.

It’s the kind of Earth where everyone wears a dapper hat, sports black suits and chain smokes. Now why we would regress in style 80 years because of a vampire plague is beyond me, but that’s the way it is.

Ethan Hawke stars as broody hematologist Edward Dalton, tasked to find a solution to the dwindling human blood supply faced by the planet. His attempts at creating a blood substitute have proven to be unsuccessful, and with each passing day, the human farm that his boss (Sam Neill) keeps at his company grows scarce.

This lack of blood has created a new strain of beings, the sub-siders, former humans-turned-vampires-turned-full on creatures who sprout wings and jagged ears. The sub-siders are growing more aggressive each day as their need for blood propels their violent behavior.

When Edward accidentally crashes into some fleeing humans – who just so happen to be led by the comely Claudia Karvan – it sets into a motion a secret plan to work together to help create a cure for the plague and prevent the hunting of the human race.

If anything, “Daybreakers” is saved by the bizarro performance turned in from William Dafoe as Lionel Cormac (“My friends call me Elvis”), a vampire who somehow managed to turn human again thanks to a solar-powered blast. It’s up to Edward how to harness the sun’s energy to make the cure work while avoiding the authorities (and his shady brother).

Directors The Spierig Brothers have a background in special effects, and it shows in the gooey, bloody work when vampires claim their victims (or battle the sub-siders). Using minimal CG, they’ve done a good job of painting a splatterful picture and evoking the noirish mood they are obviously going for.

Storywise, however, there’s a lot to be desired, as things fall right along the beats you’d expect. Lionsgate has been sitting on this one for a while, trying to find the sweet spot to release it after a decent reception at the Toronto Film Festival, but I think this will wind up as another January throwaway.

I’m on the fence about this one – if you’re looking for a hard-R horror movie, it fits the bill – but the been-there-done-that factor is too high for me to recommend it for someone looking for something fresh.

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~ by Elliott on January 20, 2010.

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