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Monday
Jan112010

Daybreakers

There was a time when vampires used to be the epitome of cool. There was a time when Blade ruled the box office with its hard R rating, providing plenty of action and blood for fans. There was a time when vampires weren't reduced to frilly angst ridden teenagers entwined in a romantic love triangle with a self-pitying high school girl and shirtless werewolf. I remember those times. Oh, how I miss them. Vampires used to be scary, stalkers of the night out for the blood of unsuspecting humans. Now they sparkle when they walk in the sun. Thankfully, nay, blessedly, Daybreakers is here to set things straight. While it may be coming at an unfortunate time, in the wake of those silly Twilight movies, it's nevertheless a riotous good time.

The year is 2019. Due to a single bat with a strange virus, a plague of vampirism has spread across the world like a wildfire. Now, less than five percent of the population is human. Everybody else has turned into a demon of the night, but things still run as usual. They still go to work, drink coffee (with blood instead of cream) and drive and the television politics still rage on. The only difference is that they do it all at night and the political arguments are about the extermination of the human race. During the day, the world is one giant ghost town, which proves to be a perfect opportunity for the last remaining humans to venture outside in search of other humans. Edward (not to be confused with that pale skinned, love sick ninny), played by Ethan Hawke, a vampire himself, runs into a group of them one day on his way home from work. Although they threaten to kill him, he has no desire to feed on them and helps them instead. He's one of those human-hugging types. Hippie.

He does this despite a global shortage of blood. In fact, in another few weeks, the last remaining human harvests will dry up and the vampires will all go mad feeding on each other, which will increase the rate of their deterioration until they all finally die. However, those humans have found a cure for vampirism thanks to a former vampire called Elvis, played by Willem Dafoe, and they enlist Edward in their attempt to save not only themselves, but the whole world.

Not since 2000's Shadow of the Vampire, which also starred Willem Dafoe, have I seen such a unique vampire movie. Finally a film comes along that dares to switch up the tried and true formula. It takes the basic concept of vampires feeding on humans and flips it around. What if there were no humans left to feed on? The premise is intriguing and an interesting commentary on our dwindling resources with our growing population. Who knew a bloody horror flick could be so smart?

But then again, it's not like I had my brain tuned to "think" when I sat down to watch Daybreakers. All I really wanted was a slickly done vampire movie with humor and gore and that's what I got. After watching Twilight and New Moon, where the only pain inflicted on anyone was purely on an emotional level, it was nice to see some pain transcend to the physical realm. This thing gets red with some excellent moments I didn't see coming, including a hilarious vampire combustion that had me cackling with glee.

What I came out of Daybreakers surprised about, however, was that the film was actually made well. A horror movie not screened for critics being released in the theatrical dump month of January? There's no way it could be good, right? Wrong. The Spierig brothers, the directors, whose only other feature length film was the 2003 straight-to-DVD horror/comedy Undead (which was pretty damn awesome if you ask me), showcase some skill here. Whereas Undead was fun, but amateur, Daybreakers promises better things to come in the duo's future. It's slyly directed and the little attention to details makes for a pleasurable experience.

Even more impressive is that they wrote the picture as well, toning down their jocular tone from Undead to make a more mature horror/drama. With the sole exception of Willem Dafoe's character, who spouts some really dumb one-liners that feel out of place in an otherwise rock solid picture, the writing is spectacular. It doesn't explain everything, but it doesn't need to. It's not about how it happens. It's merely about what happens and why. Though I fear putting these two films side by side may confuse the levels of their quality, this film is like The Road in that it's more of a warning than anything else. It intends not to show the causes of certain situations, but rather create an allegory revolving around them that can be related to real life.

Now, Daybreakers is no Oscar contender like The Road, but not every movie has to be some amazing display of filmmaking to be entertaining. Despite combining quality acting with a clever script and skillful direction, this is really nothing more than a fun romp at the movies. Given the quality of films usually released in this month, what more could you ask for?

Daybreakers receives 4/5

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