Vampirism seems like a disease in Hollywood these days, so “Daybreakers” will fall immediately go under the lens of skepticism. Believe it or not, however, Michael and Peter Spierig’s film separates itself through high concept futuristic science fiction. Although it ultimately spirals into an emotionless bloodbath, kudos to the film-making duo for taking the out-of-control vampire sub-genre somewhere it actually hasn’t indeed been before.
“Daybreakers” hardly falls into the realm of hard science, but it blends the concept of the apocalyptic epidemic with vampire culture well enough for the sake of entertaining science fiction. The film hypothesizes that if in 2019 humanity were to all become vampires (the inevitable outcome of any kind of vampirism epidemic), then humans would become a precious commodity until a human blood substitute could be found, which would cause a myriad of social issues.
Like any respectable sci-fi flick ought to, the Spierig brothers carefully establish their vampire-dominated society and some compelling characters within it. Ethan Hawke stars as Edward Dalton, (seriously, what’s with naming vampires Edward?) the chief hematologist responsible for finding a long-term blood substitute for Charles Bromley’s (Sam Neill) human blood-harvesting company. In fact, “Daybreakers” might have the most intelligently crafted societal context for a film that’s ultimate goal is entertainment through blood and mayhem.
Edward sympathizes with humans and in a chance meeting, comes across some (led by Claudia Karvan and Willem Defoe) who might hold a key to a solution to the vampire problem.
A few subplots try and add some depth to the story and characters, such as Edward’s relationship to his brother, a human hunter with a radically different perspective on being a vampire than Edward as well as Bromley’s relationship with his daughter, who ran away and insisted on remaining human. Bold these attempts are, but they’re counter-productive to the film’s main science-fiction thread.
Eventually as “Daybreakers” continues (especially in the third act) and its primary objective of entertainment becomes gorily evident, it becomes less compelling and more generally amusing. That’s when the Willem Dafoe one-liners such as “we’re the guys with the crossbows” remind you that no matter how creative the set-up, the punchline of every vampire gore flick is still the same.
Written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill