Jan 18, 2010

[Movies] Daybreakers (2009)

Daybreakers (2009)The vampire movie concept has been getting really stretched thin in recent years with the increasing number of strange movie plot twists studios try to come up with. We've seen vampires that can live in the day or vampires that even sparkle in the day. We've seen vampires that can shapeshift into various animals and we've seen vampires that need to use guns to fight. There are vampires that have been warring with werewolves for centuries and there are vampires with Southern accents who like to sleep around.

Just when you think you've seen all possible vampire variants and mutations, Hollywood manages to come up with something new again, but new isn't always good.

It's interesting to note that we seem to go into cycles of horror / thriller movies. There are the vampire years and there are the zombie years. I wonder if this movie heralds the start another another vampire period or maybe I'm completely wrong and Candyman is going to make a mega comeback soon. You can never really tell where Hollywood is going to go.

Daybreakers is a vampire movie with a Matrix-style twist. Vampirism here is some sort of a virus that has infected more than 90% of the population. The remaining humans are gathered into farms and their blood is harvest to feed the rest of the vampire world. With the human blood supply dwindling and blood-starved citizens turning into mindless, mutated "sub-siders", it's up to pharmaceutical companies like the one run by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) to try and come up with a viable blood substitute. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is one of the top hematologists working on the blood substitute project since he himself feels bad for the remaining humans and wants to find a way to eliminate the need to harvest them for blood.

NEW YORK - JANUARY 07:  Actors Ethan Hawke and...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Eventually, he has a run-in with a group of human survivors led by Audrey (Claudia Karvan). She eventually tries to get Edward involved in not just finding a blood substitute but actually finding a way to mass produce a cure for vampirism that has somehow resorted Lionel "Elvis" Cormac (Willem Dafoe) to full humanity.

The movie premise did seem interesting enough - rather than having vampires in hiding in some sub-culture, why not have them as the dominant species? The world is now ruled by vampire governments and there have been all these quaint little improvements made to society like a series of subterranean tunnels so they can walk around in the day or cars that have sunlight-proof shades and external cameras so vampires can switch to "daytime driving mode". At the same time though, they've gotten pretty stupid in other ways like the big fact that they're only gathering existing humans, draining them of blood then that's about it. Even the Matrix knew better to keep the population thriving, have them reproduce through artificial insemination and all that. It seems when the world was turned into vampires, the first technology go to was basic farming techniques. Do not kill all your cattle!

Then there's the mystical dance of the movie with whether or not the vampires are because of a viral epidemic or its because of the rise of the ancient undead monsters of lore. Vampires organizing blood rationing across the world is a pretty scientific response. Vampires not having reflections in mirror but still being visible by cameras is weird. Vampires hunt down humans with tranquilizer darts - yup, pretty scientific. Vampires bursting into flames when impaled by crossbows and wooden steaks - kinda hokey. This oxymoronic dichotomy really made the movie a bit harder to accept.

Plus there were all the goofs and gaffs that made the movie downright silly. The best example of this is the fact that vampires will not burst into flame under the noon sun if they are in the shade of a big tree. Yes, trees are vampires best friends. And don't get me started on pitch black backdoors.

It was nice to see Ethan Hawke on film again but one has to wish it wasn't back in a B-movie. Willem Dafoe was just totally Willem Dafoe and Claudia Karvan just felt like a second-rate replacement for Michelle Forbes. With these three as the primary "heroes", it's no wonder that so many of their human friends die in the course of the movie. The deaths didn't even make sense - there was no time to build any sense of an emotional attachment.

Daybreakers was painful to watch and one can only wonder what horrible permutation of the vampire myth Hollywood will come up with next. It gets 2 cheesy vampire cures out of a possible 5.

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