31 Days of Horror: Day 12 – Daybreakers (2009)

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Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill, Vince Colosimo, Isabel Lucas

Screenplay: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

98 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity.

 

There are so many great ideas in filmmaking today. Ideas for completely new stories and ideas for imagining old stories in a completely new way. Most of these ideas get muddled by poor direction, cheap performances, and no subtlety. Daybreakers is one of those films that takes its idea, a reworking of the vampire myth, and brings it all the way through to fruition.

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Daybreakers exists in a world where the undead have taken over the planet. Vampires have a lifestyle all their own. Humans are on the run, the few that are left, that is. The others have been contained and are being bled dry to feed the ever-weakening population that can’t be regularly fed. Blood prices are up and the world is on the brink. It’s the story of Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke, Training Day, Boyhood), a vampire scientist trying to discover how to deal with the global catastrophe in the making. He is trying to solve the blood shortage crisis as Charles Bromley (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, Escape Plan), a vampire business leader, hordes the blood for the wealthy. As the blood runs thin, normal walking vampires turn into horrific creatures (more like your were-vampires with tones of Nosferatu) who uncontrollably attack others to get their fix. Edward gets kidnapped by Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, John Wick), an ex-vampire who has found the cure to become human again. Together, they must, under cover of daylight, discover how to cure the general population and solve the blood crisis before the vampires morph out into monstrosities.

This was just a really cool idea. I was so excited to see how it played out, and not only was I not disappointed, but I was shocked to see such political undertones in a January release horror film. There is so much ingrained about the wealthy 1% versus the other 99, the Occupy Wall Street movement (which hadn’t even really happened yet), unemployment, gas prices, and now more than ever, our fear of an outbreak that we can’t even begin to understand. In today’s world of Ebola outbreaks in the United States, this film has a lot more to say for something essentially skipped over during its general release.

The cinematography is beautiful here, as it complements the art direction of playing off an alternate version of Earth. The changes in lifestyle are so paramount and yet subtle enough to make us look inwards at our lifestyle and how so easily it sits on the brink of societal collapse. These vampires live each day thinking their lives are okay and that someone is working to help them. They live in denial, like so many of us today.

I don’t really want to get political with this movie, which boils down to being a lot of fun at the core. The vampire mythos needed to get turned over with this. We had too much Twilight in our lore at this point and needed something with a bit of bite.

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Daybreakers is a lot of fun for the casual moviegoer and for the viewer looking for a bit more of substance to his gore. Check this film out for the interesting take of the myth, a cadre of well-performed characters, and some actual thought.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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