Michael and Peter Spierig, directors of cult Australian zombie film Undead (2003), have released their first mainstream international film, Daybreakers (2010). Daybreakers is a sci-fi vampire film, possibly feeding off the vampire trend started by the Twilight saga, but adds an interesting new twist to the idea. The film also stars Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Willem Dafoe (Spiderman) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park).
Set in the year 2019, a mysterious virus has been infecting humans for ten years, turning them into vampires. Now, the newly dominant vampire species is running out of blood, causing a worldwide famine, turning them into horrific, irrational mutations, and threatening their survival. The authorities have exhausted all of their ideas to try and combat this problem and are now enlisting vampires to go out to hunt the remaining humans in an attempt to farm them, a solution to the dwindling blood supply. The film follows vampire Edward Dalton (Hawke), a haematologist who is searching for a blood substitute, the aim being to find a substitute for the vampire’s sustenance in order to allow the human population to grow again and live alongside the vampires.
However, as his research becomes unsuccessful, the powers that be (led by Charles Bromley) become more and more impatient and doubts emerge whether vampires could last without true human blood anyway. Realising a “cure” is the only real solution, Dalton is approached by a group of human survivors to help them with their workings into a cure. Will the vampires finally run out of their blood supply? Is there really a way to transform vampires back to humans? Can the humans persuade the vampires to take on such a cure or will the vampires continue to farm the humans for their own use?
The vampires are very traditional in nature (a welcome change from the likes of Twilight): they lack a reflection, they survive on human blood alone, they are instantly killed by sunlight or the piercing of the heart, and their bite will in turn transform a human into a vampire. The way they go about their daily lives is also done brilliantly: drinking blood in their coffee, in tumblers, having customised “daylight cars” to protect users from sunlight, creating darkened tubes and subwalks to allow them to get around the city in daylight. A nice addition is the blue filter on the night-time and interior scenes, as opposed to the vibrant colours in the day-time sequences. This all goes towards an excellent concept — but what to do with the plot?
The vampire world is established well and the audience will quickly be immersed in this alternate reality, but when we get into the business of blood substitutes and “cures” some of the immersion is lost. Of course, a virus to turn humans into vampires is hardly realistic, but in a vampire film, their existence is a given. The science of the substitutes and “cures” don’t add up, and the film makers seem to get quite carried away at times. However, there are some good comedy moments, great special effects and gore, and even more excellent action sequences, complete with exploding vampires.
Definitely not a classic, but I would say definitely worth a watch if you’re into mythical creatures like vampires, or you enjoy a good dose of action sequences set in an alternate reality. Not for everyone, but a good effort with a great new concept.
Daybreakers — 6/10Tweet