Daybreakers

Daybreakers is currently available on instant Netflix.

Daybreakers (2009) – Rated R

“Earth’s population is up against a vicious plague that’s transforming everyone into vampires and draining the world of an increasingly precious resource: blood. As the human race count nears zero, could science hold the key to a solution?”

“Let’s be clear about this. Humans were offered a chance to assimilate, but they refused. Therefore, they are enemies of the state and will be captured and farmed for blood supply.”

In 2003, twin brothers Peter and Michael Spierig made a nifty little horror movie called Undead. Both of them wrote, directed, edited, produced, and worked on the visual effects for the film. Peter even worked on the sound for Undead.

Daybreakers is the Spierig brothers sophomore effort and they have a much bigger budget to work with. Special effects, worked on by the brothers, are quite good. Creature effects are by Weta workshop and the quality shows. The Spierig brothers manufacture some amazing visuals: mirrored shots of clothing (vampires cast no reflection but clothing does), shadows pierced by glowing eyes, normal vampires waiting for a subway train while devolved ones fight under the platform. A human blood farm in this strange new world is particularly startling.

The movie opens with a young (in body anyway) vampire committing suicide by awaiting the dawn. The credits then play out over an abandoned-by-day urban landscape. I love the world created here by the spread of vampirism – something that is quite logical but ignored by other vampire movies. There are certainly moments of humor but the concept is taken quite seriously.

Indie darling Ethan Hawke is the lead here as our concerned vampire researcher, Edward Dalton. Sam Neill is our chief vampire, Charles Bromley, head of Bromley Blood Banks. Thankfully, he gives us a restrained and urbane villain. Willem Dafoe gives us a rather less-restrained performance but not over-the-top performance as Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac, leader of the human underground.

The rest of the cast is populated by an assortment of Australian and Kiwi actors, an astonishing number of whom were in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Claudia Karvan is good as Audrey Bennett. Michael Dorman is zealous as Edward’s younger brother, Frankie Dalton. Jay Laga’aia makes an impression with a small role as Senator Turner.

The acting, direction and story are all good but the real reason Daybreakers works is the unique and very fleshed out world that the Spierig brothers have created. I look forward to their next feature, Predestination, also starring Ethan Hawke.