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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Daybreakers Review

FOREWORD: I don't think I've written a proper review for a while so do excuse any random form or structure within my review of Daybreakers.

PLOT: In the year 2019, a plague has transformed most every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the fractured dominant race plots their survival; meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of vamps on a way to save humankind. (IMDB)

After a sudden bombardment of vampire based movies over the past year, it's nice to have watched one that went back to basics with vampires and adapted them into a cool sci-fi setting. Daybreakers, written and directed by Australian film makers, the Spierig brothers, sees the film set in the future with society being inhabited by vampires. The remaining numbers of humans in the world are hunted by the vampires in order to use their blood to supply the rest of society. However, their blood supply is running low. Enter protagonist of the film, pharmacologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) who works for the blood farming company, headed by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), and tries to find a way to create synthetic blood for the company. While Dalton creates this fake blood, blood-related crimes escalate as blood deprived humans become ferocious bat-like creatures. After a sudden encounter with a small group of humans, Dalton offers to help them find a cure in a bid to save humanity.

You gotta give it to the Spierigs. They came up with something pretty smart and cool to work with. Daybreakers came to fruition before the sudden popularity of vampires in popular culture so it's purely coincidental that the protagonist of Daybreakers shares the same name as the one in Twilight. Unlike the aforementioned film, Daybreakers is an atmospheric genre film that sticks close to vampire conventions.

daybreakers04.jpg picture by hieuyy
No blood makes vampire go bat crazy. D:

Direction is fairly decent however loses it's way in the third act and right at the end. The film felt like it was in a hurry to finish which is a shame because it could've been so much better had the ending been more sufficient and satisfying. I felt a bit cheated with how things were resolved and only wished there was more. However, I will give credit to the first few 10 - 15 minutes of the film. The film opened with a little girl writing a suicide letter and sitting outside waiting for the sun to burn her. It establishes what the tone in the film very early on and then is quickly followed by the opening credits which are accompanied by cuts to a world in which vampires dominate. Following this are a few more cuts of the city that the film predominately takes place in where no dialogue is spoken between any character. I felt like this allowed the audience to really absorb the atmosphere of the film and inhabit the film's world.

As I said before though, the film predominately takes place in the one city which is a shame because it makes you feel that the vampire plague only happened within this city and not the rest of the world. Maybe if during the opening credit sequence they had shots of vampires inhabiting different cities in the world, one would've assumed that yes, the world is populated mostly by vampires.

daybreakers01.jpg picture by hieuyy
Our protagonists, ladies and gentlemen!

Being that this is a genre film, expect bucket loads of blood and gore. It's not a film for everyone, I admit. If you're a fan of this kind of thing, you'd love it. One scene in particular stood out and made me laugh with surprise so much that I may have scared a bit of the audience that was in attendance. But personal experience aside, it's not for everyone so you have been warned.

I thought the cast was pretty good. The main three, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe (as vampire turned human, Elvis) and Claudia Karven (as human survivor, Audrey) were great together and Sam Neill was good also (even if he was a generic bad guy). I thought the parts that Hawke and Karven had suited them very well. It's nice to see a mostly Australian cast, being that this film was made in Australia. Random side note, but would you call this an American or Australian film? Sure it's supposedly set in America and features people with American accents but the film itself is made in Australia and mostly financed by an Australian film company.

daybreakers11.jpg picture by hieuyy
There is only...Dafoe. D:

Another plus for the film was the lighting and cinematography. Due to the fact that vampires hate sunlight and burn in it, there was a strong emphasis on light which greatly intensified certain set pieces of the film. The use of light made the film pretty cool, I thought as does the cinematography. There was a clear distinction between day and night (obviously), but because most of the film is set in the night, the night itself added even more to the dark and foreboding atmosphere. Whenever you get shots of the daytime (and as cliche as this may sound), it was like having a sense of hope.

I really enjoyed the movie but one little minor nitpick was the lack of Placebo! I was hoping to hear their cover of Running Up That Hill in the movie somewhere but was disappointed that it wasn't included. It's too bad cause the song was used wonderfully within the trailer and had me hooked even more at the time. But that's just one minor thing that doesn't affect how much I had fun with the film.

While the third act is very unsatisfying, the rest is pretty good and entertaining. It could've been a lot better had they thought about the ending a lot more instead of throwing out some generic standards and/or cliches that adhere to this particular genre but otherwise it's still an enjoyably fun and kinda smart movie.

Daybreakers gets a 3.5/5.

P.S. I think Australian film-makers in particular should take notice of this film as it's written and directed by two Aussie brothers. Aussie film-makers should at least be a lot more confident in their projects, whether or not their idea is bad or good (though it definitely helps if its a good one) and not be afraid to pass it on to international distributors like Lionsgate (who distrubuted this). I remember when Saw came out and I found out that it was written and directed by Aussies, Leigh Whannel and James Wan. Aussie films should get more widespread recognition on a mainstream level.


  1. good review and i like you captions

    i also like the time you posted it

  2. Yeah I actually really liked the premise of the film - the ending was such a letdown but at the same time, a serious eye-opener to how similar humans and vampires really are re: the whole animal instinct. That said, I really loved how the film set-up took the genre into another plane.

    Agreed re: the graphic nature of it - I felt a little queasy coming out of the cinema because of the gore, but granted, it was justified. Still, my face was kinda D8 during the gore scenes hahahah

    Actually, I only watched this for Ethan Hawke and was so excited seeing Claudia Karvan in a supporting role. It's been a very long time between appearances Ms Karvan!