Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Daybreakers (Review)

     When you push to far to one extreme, there is always a backlash; disco brought on punk, Bush brought on Obama, and now, thankfully, romanticized, teen angst laden vampires bring on "Daybreakers."  The previews made it look like a typical, fast action, slick, special effects laden bowl of Hollywood tripe.  Little did I know that nothing could have been farther from the truth. 

     "Daybreakers" is not your typical vampire movie.  Here, a virus, spread by a bat, began infecting people and turning them into vampires.  It seems that most of the classic vampire lore applies; sunlight kills, as does a stake through the heart and decapitation, and you become a vampire when one feeds on you.  With people becoming vampires at a rapid pace, ordinary human beings soon become a minority and the world is now run by vampires.  These vampires need human blood or they devolve into a nasty, more bat like, mindless, vampire creature, so, human beings are now captured and farmed for blood, however, ten years into Vampireland, there are not enough humans left to sustain the vampire population and blood supplies are beginning to run short.  Enter our hero, Edward Dalton, played by Ethan Hawke, who is a vampire doing research on a blood substitute.  He meets up with former vampire Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac, played Willem Dafoe, and a small group of human resisters.  They have a cure, of sorts, that DaFoe's character accidentally discovered, and they need Hawke's character to develop it.

     "Daybreakers" is a bit of an action movie and a bit of a gruesome monster movie with some well thought out social analysis as a backdrop.  The action sequences are well done and appropriate, lacking the current Hollywood penchant for slow motion CGI closeups.  They are fast, shocking, and often gruesome, but not overly so, and appropriate for an adult oriented monster movie.  The visual effects are quite good and are used when necessary rather than the overkill we are used to.  There is even quite a bit of development of what a vampire lead society would be like, complete with social divisions, an underclass, (quite literally under the city) a human hunting vampire army, and coffee.  (Now with 20% blood!)  There could be more development of the culture, but not without sacrificing the action/monster movie core.  The rest is good execution of story and character.  "Daybreakers" isn't a character based drama by any stretch of the imagination, but it does pay enough attention to both character and story to keep both interesting and believable while advancing the plot of a action/monster movie, making it a far better than your typical, shallow, action or monster movie.  The ending is satisfying enough, though we are left in sequel or franchise territory, which I think wouldn't be such a bad idea as long as newcomer writer/directors Michael and Peter Spierig can remain in Australia and away from the influence of major motion picture studios. 

     I was pleasantly surprised at "Daybreakers," and if you are sick and tired of wimpy, teen aged vampires bemoaning their feelings, I think you will be too.

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