Just because you have a new idea doesn’t mean you will have an interesting film.
Daybreakers posits that after a viral outbreak nearly everyone in the world has become a vampire. Humans – the vampires’ chief source of un-life sustaining blood – are on the verge of extinction.
Edward (not the sparkly ridiculously coiffed one from Twilight, here played by Ethan Hawke) is a blood specialist working for Bromley (Sam Neill). He has been working on a blood substitute to little success; meanwhile Bromley’s company runs a human “farm” which provides real blood to those who can pay (instead of Big Pharma, call it Big Blood). Edward is also a vampire with a conscience. He subsists on other-than-human blood, which is having a detrimental effect. Vampires who do not get real human blood on a regular basis “devolve” into what the movie calls “subsiders:” creatures with all the ugliest traits of the vampires but none of the charm (kind of like the post-Thanksgiving shoppers on Black Friday mixed with the monsters from The Descent).
Edward falls in with the beautiful Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and her band of human freedom fighters. He also hooks up with a man called Elvis (Willem Dafoe) who drives cool muscle cars and makes an interesting claim, which I won’t divulge.
The movie goes through great pains to integrate vampire sensibilities into our everyday culture: a homeless vampire’s cardboard sign reads “Will work for blood,” cars are designed for daytime driving with opaque windows and cameras and CCTVs, coffee stands sell coffee with “20% real blood,” TV ads tout the subwalk, an underground walkway/subway that enables the fanged to safely get around during the day. All this is basically meaningless as the movie never shows the “benefits” of being a vampire. The Lost Boys’s tagline was “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire.” Daybreakers show vampires as beat cops, baristas, research scientists, corporate CEOs, school kids, and members of the military. They’re all hard working citizens of Vampireville. They’re not cool-looking rock stars. They’re just regular folk. So what is the point? Why would you want to be a vampire and live “forever,” especially if your main source of food is nearly gone (Soylent Red, where are you)?
The movie is a modestly budgeted affair (approximately $20 million) from Australia’s Spierig Brothers, who helmed the ultra low budget Undead in 2003. There are a few “juicy” scenes where bodies and head and things go splat, which was a lot more fun than all the decapitations in The Wolfman. The movie looks slick enough, with photography by Ben Nott and production design by George Liddle, but the majority of the film is shot in a sickly grayish green hue. That look apparently started with The Matrix, and since that film is over ten years old, I call for an official moratorium on movies shot in that palate.
The story opens ten years after most of the world’s population grew fangs and lost their reflections, but as human beings have also steadily declined shouldn’t the world be more anarchic or post apocalyptic and less corporate-y – more Mad Max and less Gordon Gecko? Everything is too neat and tidy; it doesn’t feel real. I never once believed in the story, and if you don’t believe, just like the vamps have no reflection, you have no movie.