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!

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