Starring Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, and Willem Dafoe. Rated 18A.
When it comes to vampire flicks, I prefer the down ’n’ dirty kind. Screw the refined elegance of Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Interview With the Vampire; give me the gritty backwoods bloodsucking of Near Dark any day. I want to hear undead biker Bill Paxton bellow, “I hate it when they ain’t been shaved!” before gorging himself on a redneck’s neck.
Watch the trailer for Daybreakers.
Daybreakers is the visual opposite of Near Dark. Its upscale vampires wear tailored suits, drive luxury cars, and savour blood from wine glasses. It’s 2019, and they exist in a polished, gleaming world where amber-eyed vamps rule and humans have been hunted almost to extinction.
“Life’s a bitch, and then you don’t die,” quips hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke). If he doesn’t discover a substitute for human blood soon then he and his neck-biting brethren are toast. His experiments are carried out under the eye of his greedy boss, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), who runs a corporation that farms humans for their precious and fast-diminishing fluid. In the glossy, blue-tinted future created by sibling Aussie writer-directors Michael and Peter Spierig, blood is the new oil, and the ramifications of “peak blood” aren’t pretty.
After an impressive first half that scores points with such timely socioeconomic speculation—plus the most entertaining exploding-body scene ever—things start to sour when the monumentally miscast Willem Dafoe shows up as a ’50s-style hipster in full-on Happy Days garb. He’s the Elvis-quoting leader of an underground militia and the only person who’s ever changed from vampire back to human, so naturally Dalton takes that as a cue to try and save the world. Around here Daybreakers’ clever streak runs out and the previously witty, refreshing film becomes a predictable action romp that’s big on over-the-top gore but lacking in everything else.