One cannot deny the proliferation of vampire flicks that seem to have begun to move away from traditional action adventures and horror, to gasp, teenage romantic angst with the likes of the Twilight films. And here comes a rather excellent concept with Daybreakers turning things around with an amalgamation of the scenario of a pretty much cliché formula with an unknown virus turning everyone into blood sucking vampires rather than mindless, flesh eating zombies, and the often science fiction idea of harnessing humans not for electrical brain pulses, but harvested for that limited blood supply, marketed and canned as default vampire food.
But alas an excellent concept that had been translated into a rather choppy film, struggling to find balance between its philosophy, drama and action moments. It's not to say that it's a bad film, but it lacked the touch of, say a mentor, to guide the writer-director duo of the Spierig Brothers, Michael and Peter. I felt it had potential just like District 9's take on the science fiction genre, with an experienced producer lurking around to prod and guide the relatively new filmmakers into pushing all the right buttons for the good of the story and film. Daybreaker misses out on this kind of influential touch to have translated its concept to fruition better.
It's the year 2019, and ten years ago our world as we know had slowly transformed all humans into vampires no thanks to a mysterious bat bite which started it all, with the entire premise told through a graphical opening credits full of little nuggets of informative back story all over the place. Humans either get turned into vampires so that they can achieve immortality at a price of not being able to bask out in the sun anymore, or get turned into a limited blood supply kept alive by plasma harnessing machines, in a factory managed by an evil industrialist Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). All's fine and dandy, but without a steady stream of juicy humans, the vampires themselves face extinction from a badly managed food supply chain, and a mutation stemmed from malnutrition which will turn them into mindless bat-monsters to show off what the special effects and makeup crew can do for a film like this.
So the vampires commission Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) to come up with artificial plasma substitutes that can ensure continued vampire lifestyles (of buzzing nightlife) except that Edward has that soft spot for humankind given that he was turned into a vampire much against his wishes. His desire to help humans comes for real when he chances upon a rare group of escaping human refugees, with whom he bands together in a search for a cure to vampirism.
In essence, I felt the narrative contained a veiled commentary of the health-care industry, which questions whether simple cures for diseases are possible, but with conspiracy theories speculating that they are usually shelved for more complex solutions in the name of revenue for profit maximizing companies, whose leaders are with low ethical morals so much so that they will sell out their own family if it means achieving their selfish aims.
But of course this is an action packed science fiction film about vampires versus humans with a dash of horror elements thrown in, so let's not read too much into it, but to open your eyes to the wonderfully designed production which has a no holds barred depiction on how that hypothetical, sun-less lifestyle would have forced changes between light and dark scenarios, and I thought this was the second Ethan Hawke film (after Gatacca) to have a refreshing creation of a futuristic world, this one complicated yet made fresh by its premise, with horrific moments that worked despite dipping into the same bag of horror tricks.
The special effects here were aptly applied to enhance moments in the film, together with some nicely done make up which did not overshadow the plot and make it into yet another brainless flick. And typical of all B-movies, this one also had an over the top heroic character, played with a straight face by Willem Defoe who lived out his larger than life persona, ever reliant on saving the day.. It's too little too late though, with potential written all over the film but its failure to deliver consistently makes this an unfulfilled classic in the making. Which is a pity, but don't let that discourage you from examining this for yourself to see how differently you would have done it, given the same concept.