Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill
Vampire flicks tend to cast blood suckers in a dim light, apprehensive though savage in nature. Creatures who, ordinarily avoid humans at all cost, other than (of course) come feeding time. Well, Daybreakers kisses that entire approach goodbye. In this case, rather than timid monsters we’re faced with an entire world full of vampires. Humans are an extremely endangered species, and therein – ironically – lies Daybreakers’ primary conflict. I mean, come on – you can’t have a world full of vampires if you’ve got a world without vampire food!
I know this not because decades of vampire flicks have loaded me to the gills with undead info, but because Daybreakers gives us an up close and personal glimpse of exactly what happens to vampires when they run out of food. They transform into hideously grotesque creatures more than willing to slaughter their own kind, and anything else that happens to cross their path for that matter. Those who begin to starve and face this transformation are known as Subsiders, and not only do they mutate at an accelerated rate, they take on strengths unknown even to your average vampire.
Needless to say, we as viewers are treated to copious amounts of plasma splatter and pooling, unsettling makeup effects (kudos go out to Steve Boyle), and believe it or not, a touch of humanity (courtesy of Edward Dalton, played by the stoic Ethan Hawke). Dalton works alongside several scientists seeking an alternative source of food. The humans are few and far between, and if some form of blood alternative isn’t uncovered soon, the vampires will end up as obsolete as the humans. Dalton and a few rogue humans find more than an alternative, they actually manage to find a true cure – but is a cure what the vampire race truly wants?
I love the approach the Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter, who both wrote and directed the picture) applied here. It’s rare that we’re thrust into a population in which humans act as the minority. Man being hunted by malicious creatures is no new territory, but in this specific context, I’ll admit it feels a little like new territory. The order in which our legion of antagonists function is creepy; the fact that their behavior is an every-night lifestyle is believable, which only enhances that chill factor.
As the film works towards it’s finale, both Ethan Hawke and co-star Willem Dafoe (who flexes his comedic and heroic muscles in the role of Lionel “Elvis” Cormac) seem to gain serious momentum, and bring to light some excellent character development. Sam Neill (Charles Bromley) is particularly heinous as the film’s true menace, willing to sacrifice anyone (even his own daughter) in order to find an effective blood substitute. But good, convincing performances often come with the guidance of a knowledgeable director, and the Spierig Brothers have taken this opportunity to prove that they are just that. Keep an eye out for these two