Fantastic Fest 2009: Daybreakers

Andrew Mack, Contributing Writer
The year is 2019 and a plague has swept throughout the world turning most of the population into vampires. With the scales tipped on favor of the vampires they not hunt down humans and harvest them for blood. But the supply is running low, humanity is disappearing. Soon there will be no more human blood. Some vampires have already started to change and mutate due to starvation.

Ethan Hawke plays the chief hematologist Edward Dalton who is looking for an artificial replacement for human blood. He himself stopped drinking Human blood for a while already and has been trying to suffice on pigs blood. Sympathetic to the plight of the humans Edward nearly runs into Audry Bennett, a human smuggler, one night on the roads. Audrey will later return to Edward and bring him to Elvis [Willem 'chaos reigns' Dafoe], a human, once a vampire, who may whole the key to a cure that only Edward seems to be looking for amongst his people.
Sam Neill is Charles Bromley. He is the company CEO and is ready to produce this blood substitute the moment Edward and his team can create it. When he was a human he was dying to disease and turning into a vampire cured him. Despite this though Bromley has a human daughter who refused to turn, and she fled and disappeared. Bromley's motivations will become clear as the blood supply dwindles and the situation gets dire for the vampire race. For now, with less than month's blood supply left and stock holders pulling their human stock from the farming facility he puts his hopes on Edward that he and his team can a blood substitute which would save the vampire race instead of exploding it - you'll see.

As the main character is focused on a cure so it would seem are the Spiereg brothers. Their screenplay is very focused on the science in a vampire world; the technology or lifestyle of vampires at night and at day. And seeing as no one has ever thought to go this far into imagining a world "completely" inhabited by vampires they have had nothing but free reign on this particular perspective into it. That's the kind of stuff that I really admired about Daybreakers was their ingenuity. How do you drive a car during the day? How do you protect your human hunting teams during the day? The brothers haven't caught themselves all up in the cause of Vampirism or the mythology around it. They offer up a vampire perspective of everyday lifestyle and the hope for a cure/blood substitute so this lifestyle can continue. For offering up this unique vision of a vampire world I commend the Spierig brothers. Bravo.

However, We can all make jokes about how much sparkling vampires 'suck' and 'bite' but the truth of the matter is Daybreakers is just short of enough soul to make it especially engaging. I don't know if this world was so cold and blue and grey emotionally that it made connecting to Edward and his cause a little bit difficult. Or, perhaps treating vampirism as merely a plague, a disease that can be cured I didn't invest emotionally into the film. Technically Daybreakers is freaking great. The brothers did a lot of the effects themselves. A lot of them on their own computers while making this film. They are fantastic and gifted filmmakers and they are good story tellers. I think if they can improve on their storytelling they can offer us something truly special than just better than average. Don't get me wrong. As far as vampire action films go Daybreakers is top of the pops but there just doesn't seem to be enough heart beneath all that flash, dazzle and ingenuity to help me connect with its characters. What I got was great but I felt like it should have had more.

Still, Daybreakers is a bloody good time and the level and amount of action and gruesome violence is more than enough to satisfy anyone's bloodlust.
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