Rental Pick: Daybreakers (2009) – a novelty twist in a classic genre

I’m not into horror flicks but I kind of have a penchant for the vampire genre (the proper kind, NOT Twilight!) so when I saw the premise of this last year, I was intrigued. It took me a while to finally see it but I’m glad I did.

DAYBREAKERS (2009)

In the year 2019, a plague has transformed almost every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the fractured dominant race plots their survival; meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of vamps on a way to save humankind.

This is one genre that’s been done to death that very few of them lack bite anymore, pardon the pun. But with Daybreakers, the filmmakers managed to have deliver new to say on this genre. Glad to see that it’s not the classic vampire/human gothic romance but more of a survival story, not just for the humans but for the vampire as well as blood is scarce. On TV we heard a Senator said that humans had been offered a chance to assimilate but because they refused, they’re now considered enemies of the state and will be captured and farmed for blood supply.

These vampires live in a world just like ours — they work in offices, they drive cars or take the subway, etc. They even line up to buy coffee in the morning (albeit with a percentage of blood in it). In fact, as the human blood supply gets lower and lower, so is the percentage amount in their coffee, and there’s an interesting scene where a riot broke out out of their frustration.

The protagonist is Edward Dalton (fortunately this Edward doesn’t sparkle!), a hundred-something year-old vampire who works as a hematologist at a Bromley Marks pharmaceutical corporation ran by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). Dalton has been working on finding an artificial blood supply but when they finally tested it on one vampire, it didn’t work, leaving the subject in pieces, literally. The situation is pretty dire as the lack of human blood on these vamps eventually turn them into these horrifying creatures (basically a human bat) that would prey on anything and everything, even their own kind. Edward and his brother had a terrible encounter with one of them one night and it turns out that creature used to be one of the gardeners!

Edward detests being a vampire and he’s resentful that his brother turned him many years ago. So when he somehow encounter a group of humans who trusted him enough to take him to their hideaway, Edward was more than willing to help. The rest of the film becomes a cat and mouse game between the vampires and the small group of humans.

This film has some truly gory parts so it’s definitely not for the faint of hearts. I had to cover my eyes in some parts, especially the devouring scene at the end, but overall I really like this film. Ethan Hawke has the soulful, deeply forlorn look to him that suits his role perfectly. Nice to see Sam Neill playing the baddie and Willem Dafoe as a good guy for once. I really thought that when I saw Dafoe in the cast that he would be the lead vampire, ahah! The actress playing Dafoe’s cohort is amateurish however, I wish they had cast someone far more expressive in that role. Hawke and Dafoe are the only American actors as the cast are mostly from Down Under.

The cinematography set in Queensland Australia is quite beautiful, I think the filmmakers did a good job in creating a realistic-looking dystopian future (albeit it takes place only 10 years from now) that feels eerie and sinister. I also appreciate the small details like the lack of reflection of Edward in his car’s rear view mirror and how his house and car are styled to be sunlight-proof. Not bad for only the second feature film from Aussies Michael and Peter Spierig, known as the Spierig Brothers.

This dystopian horror thriller is definitely worth a rent if you’re looking for a novelty twist in a classic genre. I find the whole social satire idea more arresting than I expected. Strangely enough, at times I find myself rooting for some of the vampires, as just like in the human world, corporate greed abounds and the strong prey on the weak. After watching this, it actually makes me think about our own society and the idea of how a limited supply of precious resources does to people. I mean, just look at what happens with the gas shortage post Hurricane Sandy!

4 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on this movie? Those who’ve seen this one, curious to hear what you think.

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42 thoughts on “Rental Pick: Daybreakers (2009) – a novelty twist in a classic genre

    • Oooh glad Mr Muir likes this one too. I really enjoyed it Michael, and you know I’m generally not into horror. It’s an intelligent vampire film which is very rare these days, but still scary and gory enough to please horror fans.

    • Hi Mark, I almost forgot about this one too as a friend of mine recommended it to me a year ago. Glad I saw it though, I really like the cast. I actually haven’t seen Ethan Hawke in anything for a long time but I really like him in this one.

  1. As mentioned earlier, I didn’t really care for this one, I liked the premise but the actual film’s quite forgettable to me. Somehow it reminds me of the Blade but with less action. I actually blind buy the BD from Best Buy because it’s only $10, kind of wish I’d rented it first.

    • Yeah that’s ok Ted, we can agree to disagree on this one. I actually thought about this film for days afterwards so it’s not at all forgettable to me. It makes me think about our society and humanity in a way, and the social commentary is interesting. I wasn’t expecting a full-on action flick, in fact I’m glad that it wasn’t like Blade. This one has something to say, not just concerned with cool action set pieces.

  2. I remember hearing about this but didn’t realize Hawke and Dafoe were in it. Interesting. Still don’t think I will be seeing it — I haven’t found a vampire movie I have enjoyed yet — but it’s good to hear this Edward doesn’t sparkle. ;)

    • Well you might give this a try if you like the vampire genre. The premise is intriguing and I do like both Hawke and Dafoe in it, oh and Sam Neill too, as the Gordon Gekko of the vampire world :)

  3. I’m no horror fan and definitely not into Vampires but “Blade” and “Underworld” sucked me right into the latter genre. No pun intended. I still prefer to watch movies featuring mortals but Daybreakers might be a nice rainy day rental for me :)

    • Hi Nicole, if you like Underworld and Blade, you might like this one. It’s actually got something to say instead of just showing the action stuff. Some vampire movies sucked bad ahah, but glad that this one isn’t one of them.

    • Sorry to hear you didn’t like it as much Sati, but at least you didn’t find it to be a complete waste. I’m surprised how much I enjoyed it, which is interesting as I’m usually not into horror.

    • Hey glad to hear it, matey! I thought from your comment earlier you did not like this one. It does make you think for days afterwards, in fact I still think about even today.

  4. I was really surprised to see that you had watched this (knowing your deep affection for the horror genre) ;)

    But, this is a movie that has been on my radar. I just haven’t caught up with it yet. But this spikes my interest. Nice review!

    • He..he.. well sometimes I do make an exception if I like the premise and this one did not disappoint. Do see it Keith, I think you’d appreciate this one.

  5. Hi, Ruth and company:

    The commodities market and cut throat competition ventures in Vampire Capitalism?

    Cool!

    ‘Daybreakers’ also kind of reminded me of Cronenberg’s ‘Cosmopolis’. A very decent rental!

    PS: Drop by Nostra’s ‘My Filmviews’, Ruth. He has a ‘Many Faces Of’ I know you will enjoy!

    • Thanks Jack! I haven’t seen Cosmopolis yet but I’m curious about it so for sure I’ll rent it. It’s quite eerie to see how we are not really that different from these fanged creatures depicted in Daybreakers, ahah.

        • Oy, THAT bad eh? Well I’m not that familiar w/ Cronenberg’s work aside from The Fly but I thought Cosmopolis was decent? Sounds like you like Daybreakers though, and funny that Cosmopolis stars the actor playing the other, more sparkling vampire Edward ;)

  6. I just moved this movie up on my queue over at Netflix. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to see it. I like Hawke and Neill very much. Thanks for the review!

    • Hi Vic! It took me a year to finally see it too but it’s definitely worth it. If you like those two actors then by all means rent it, they’re all very good here.

    • Yeah, that is quite rare isn’t it? I really like the premise of this one, I don’t even mind watching it again even despite all the gory stuff.

  7. When this film was released, I went to the cinema to see it at once. Not only because I was a fan of Hawke, but I was also very interested with the idea of the film. It was great that at last there was a vampire movie that did not follow the “Twilight trend”. And it did not disappointed me. In fact I enjoyed more than I had imagined. I really wished it would have a sequence, but it seemed that people didn’t keen on making part 2.

    • Hi there, welcome to FC! Yes it’s definitely nice to see this one is as far away from Twilight as you can get. Cool that you saw it on the big screen and you weren’t disappointed.

  8. Nice review – always good when a local films (and the film-MAKERS) get positive praise from any quarter….. Loved this film, loved the concept, but felt it was just a little too…. highbrow for most Aussies to really “get”…. Sam Niell’s role was terribly written, but the rest of it was top notch….

    • Hi Rodney! You think this is too highbrow for most Aussies? Really? I love the concept too but I thought the execution was pretty good. I like Sam Neill but his role does seem rather one-dimensional.

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