- Title: Daybreakers
- Year: 2009
- Rating: R
- Running Time: 97 mins
- Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
- Writer(s): Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
- Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas, Vince Colosimo, Callum McLean, Harriet Minto-Day, Jarrad Pon
Anyone who reads Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend has probably imagined just what a vampire society might be like. Or, more specifically, what shape a future vampire society that replaces the present human one might take. Daybreakers gives us that society in a near future world some ten years into a vampire plague that has swept the planet. Only real problem is that the plague was so successful that vamps have almost completely wiped out humanity — and humanity, as we all know, is the sole source of food for hungry vampires. But, after a promising start depicting a nocturnal world of vamps drinking O negative lattes and and celebrating the same birthday ten years running, Daybreakers soon devolves into a mess of coincidence, stupidity, and cliche that completely squanders the initially exciting premise.
Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is the chief hematologist at an Evil Vampire Corporation (boo hiss) headed by Sam Neill. He wants to find a human blood substitute since the global supply of high test is a month away from running out. Apparently in their zeal to convert the existing human population into vampires, someone didn’t stop to think that it might be nice to keep a decent supply of peeps around for snacking purposes. So, most of the remaining human population is kept in somewhat suspended animation, Matrix-style, and milked for blood. Why they aren’t given a sixer of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and serenaded with a little Barry White is a bit of a mystery — because if there’s one thing humans are really good at, it’s making more humans.
Or maybe the writers were so jazzed to hit us with some kind of allegory about energy scarcity that they conveniently overlooked narrative logic? That would be forgivable if it were the only mistake the film makes but, unfortunately at this point, Daybreakers is just getting started in the mistakes department. What begins as a promising and imaginative film morphs into a turgid and flat mess of an action movie that is actually difficult to watch. Our main vamp Edward, a kind of mopey, conscientiousness objector type, coincidentally meets some human resistance fighters whom he helps to escape and, soon enough, he joins them in looking for a cure to vampirism. The cure itself is a fairly ridiculous process accidentally discovered by ‘Elvis’ Cormac, played with long drawl aw-shucks-itude by Willem Dafoe. But the human resistance — comprised of course by the requisite comfy earth tone baggies-wearing cast of ‘We Are the World’ — can only elude the three humvees that seem the sum-total of Evil Vampire Corporation’s security arm for so long. Cliche collides with cliche, stupidity further highlights the film’s shallow pockets, bland action sequences follow one another monotonously, and my initial interest soured to the point where, even when Daybreakers managed some later bit of cleverness or creativity, I had turned off completely. Daybreakers, I thought, you are dead to me — and not even in some kind of cool, wearing sunglasses at night undead sort of way, but dead dog dead.
So, as things spin on with crossbows and explosions and utterly predictable plotting, my mind wanders, thinking about the version of this film that wouldn’t suck. I think, maybe this low budget Australian film shouldn’t have tried to make itself look like a big budget American one, for starters. Maybe something a little quieter and a whole lot smarter could have made this cool starting premise come alive, rather than just using it as an excuse to hang a bunch of thoughtless cliches all over the place. Maybe if someone had actually set out to explore this idea more fully and highlight just what is horrifying about it, I would be looking at one of the more original and appealing horror-apocalypse movies ever made. But, alas, Daybreakers ain’t that. Daybreakers isn’t even good in a bad kind of way, since it has utterly no sense of humor and takes itself completely seriously, so even the ‘so bad it’s good’ redemption that some b-movies manage to achieve is well out of its reach. Daybreakers, like the vampires at its core, completely lacks any spark of humanity that might have saved it.