Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Daybreakers

 
 

Review by Patrick Hodges

It’s not often that the first film that I see in a calendar year is anything to write home about, for the simple fact that most films released in early January tend to be wholly forgettable.  January has long been a dumping ground for studios, a way to span the long gap between the holidays and spring.  Oh, occasionally you’ll find a diamond in the rough like last year’s Taken, but that’s a rarity.

Given the intriguing premise of Daybreakers, a premise that takes a classic horror theme and puts a sci-fi “what if” spin on it:  the year is 2019, and ten years have passed since a viral outbreak turned most of the population into vampires.  Few humans remain, to the point where they are almost an endangered species.  They are forced to hide themselves, lest they be captured and “farmed” for all the blood they can produce.  Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hematologist who is desperately trying to find a way to curb the world’s thirst for blood by engineering a substitute, but is running out of time.  For you see, a vampire that tries to feast on another vampire (or on themselves) turns into a hideous, slavering, feral, bat-like creature, a fate that awaits all vampires should he fail.

He works for billionaire businessman Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), who seems to care less about the plight of humanity than keeping control over the world’s dwindling supply of blood.  One night, Edward  makes contact with some humans, who, in turn, introduce him to Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Defoe), a former vampire who is now apparently cured.  From then, Edward goes on the run from the “vampire police”, a taskforce that includes his brother Frankie (Michael Dorman), from whom he is estranged.

This film is rated R, so I expected a fair amount of gore.  What I hoped for was that the story would progress as intelligently as the premise suggested, but sadly, it didn’t.  Action sequences replaced character development in many places, and instead of a truly satisfying conclusion to the film, it just descended into a brutal gore-fest.  (One of the film’s most truly disturbing sights was a mob of starving vampires unable to contain their blood-lust.)

The acting was nothing to write home about.  Hawke was decent, I suppose, and Defoe was actually quite good as Elvis, in full-on redneck mode.  Neill was not that convincing as the story’s villain, coming off less as a bad guy than a twisted vampire version of Donald Trump.  The dialogue was borderline, and the action sequences, while they held true to vampire lore (more specifically, their aversion to sunlight), they were nothing special.

So 2010 is underway.  I doubt very much that I will remember much about Daybreakers twelve months from now, because the whole experience of watching it just left me cold – much like most of the characters.

2 ½ / 5 stars
 
 
 

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