Movie Review – Day Breakers

It seems we as an audience cannot get enough of vampires. Whether they are smart, vicious, mysterious or romantic, we have been twisting the myth of the vampire to create version after version for years and will probably be for years to come.

The challenge for any film that covers a topic as widely covered as this is how to make a  version fresh and interesting.

Enter brothers Michael and Peter Spierig and their film Daybreakers with its own twist on the vampire story. The films first twist is the fact that this story is set in a future word where vampires are the dominant species on the planet and the humans are an endangered species making up less than five percent of the population.

Meet Edward (Ethan Hawke), Edward is a vampire and Chief Haematologist on a project trying to create a substitute to blood for the general population as human blood is becoming rarer and rarer.

Edward is working for Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), the powerful boss of a blood farm, who wants to save his kind and reap as many benefits as he can in the process.

A blood substitute is needed for multiple reasons, to save the human race, as they need time to rebuild the population, also to save vampire society itself, for all of the vampires appearances of civility, if they go without blood for too long they turn feral, they seem to turn more to their bat side, symptoms include, increased strength and aggression, loss of body hair, loss of higher brain functions, physical distortions which include wing like arms, all in all not nice creatures, as blood supplies run out, more of the vampire population turn into these beasts, dubbed by those not yet turned as ‘subsiders’.

Needless to say the first vampire test of this blood substitute does not go to plan and on the way home Edward runs into a group of humans and instead of turning them in he helps them run, when the humans realise who Edward is, they approach him for his help with a solution of their own to solve the current crisis.

From here the story moves on and you meet Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac (Willem Dafoe), a man with an interesting story to tell.

Events unfold people are trying to manipulate the situation to their advantage and chaos ensues.

I really like how they created this world, this story lives in a fully realised and interesting world, the vampire society is basically the same as our own with only a few differences, the vampires still have different classes in society, they still have to go to work and the same problems still exist, they still have the homeless and the starving, they go into the smaller details as well, news articles on TV about pro human rights vampire protestors, the biggest cause of forest fires is vampire animals going out into the sunlight and setting themselves on fire because they do not know any better, posters up on walls telling you, your government needs your help finding free humans for blood farms, reminiscent of the US Army Uncle Sam recruiting posters, these types of things that are in the background and may not apparent right away but really added to the sense of the world, technology created to allow vampires to live their lives while the sun is still up, like underground walkways and cars with cameras and windows that black out.

Colour also plays a large role in the look of this film, the vampires world is cold in colour, lots of blues and blacks, washed out colours with stark lighting, it all looks very clinical, the only two intense colours in this world is the blood and the yellow eyes of the vampires, whereas the humans make use of warmer colours, natural lighting and have a earthiness to them.

The vampires of this world keep a lot of traditional facts about themselves, immortality, sunlight does them no favours, a stake to the heart will kill them and they have no reflection.

But like any other vampire film they have added to the list, in this world just a bite will turn someone into a vampire, there is no extra steps to follow, a starving vampire will become a hideous monster and these vampires don’t seem to have any enhanced abilities, not until they become their feral counterparts when they get any stronger than a normal human, the soldier and police carry guns and tasers for dealing with resistance from humans, ‘subsiders’, or their own people.

These vampires do however keep something that I think is very important, a sense of menace, from the fact that any vampire can turn feral, to the normal vampires like Charles Bromley, the guy is really embracing his vampire side, it is not so much in the fact that he drinks blood, for me it is in his general attitude, this is best shown in his dealings with his human daughter, he does truly love his daughter, but this love has been twisted by his new nature, it is how he expresses this.

I really liked the story, it had a twist I have not seen before, along the way they put in their message across about big business and how we treat our resources that will run out if we are not careful, this was handled with a fairly soft touch, it moved along at a fairly decent pace, but did seem to speed up towards the end when they needed to start wrapping up the story, the end of the film did put across the message not so bluntly that they were setting up for a sequel, but I cannot really hold that against them, just wish it was less obvious, I was hoping for a more definite ending.

Daybreakers had enough small scale action to keep me interested throughout the film, with a couple of larger action sequences, which were entertaining. The makeup and effects were all top class, the makeup job on the ‘subsiders’ really made them look animalistic and scary, I also really liked the effect when a vampire died, fright and gore were plentiful, all this kept the movie interesting and it even had a couple of emotional moments I was not expecting.

On the gore note, in most cases in the movie had the level of blood I wanted to see in a vampire movie, blood on the neck of the victim of a bite and the such, in a couple of cases they really ramped it up, for me when they did this it had mixed results, on one of these occasions it became silly, not offensive or disgusting, just silly.

I thought all the main cast put in solid performances, Hawke’s Edward was a man who did not really want to be a vampire, but at the same time desperate to find a way out of the situation his people were in, he wanted to save them. Defoe brought to Levi a confidence and toughness, but with a charisma that made him likeable right away, for me the stand out performance was Sam Neill, he was sophisticated and charming when he needed to be and very menacing when he wanted to be.

All in all this was a good film worth my time and money.


GS Reviewer: Glen Davies

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