Daybreakers was shot back in 2007 and Lionsgate didn’t release it until this past January. You know, that wonderful time of the year where studios dump their toxic waste into the mallplex, just wanting to get rid of it. Usually not a good sign at all. Still, Daybreakers is better than this inauspicious turn of events would suggest. You’ll never mistake what the directing team of the Spierig Brothers churns out as art and Daybreakers is pretty much 100% high-octane goofy, but as crap cinema goes, it’s pretty decent. It takes itself seriously enough not to plunge into the depths of camp while having enough fun with itself to treat viewers to vampire barrista babes serving blood-spiked coffee with a winning smile. Daybreakers is thoroughly unrepentant trash, which is the best kind of trash there is.
The year: 2019. The lowdown: Lionsgate had this crappy vampire movie… wait, we already covered that. Okay, Earth’s population is 99% vampire and there are damned few humans left. This presents a serious problem – the vampires are running out of food and when they can’t get enough of the red stuff, they turn into bestial, bat-winged monsters that are mindless savages. It’s not fun to be a vampire when you’re a starving, mindless savage, so the vamps have got to find some means to sustain their unholy mockeries of life.
Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) just might be their salvation. He’s a bright young vampire who works as a hematologist for Bromley Marks, supplier of quality blood products to eager consumers worldwide. Edward’s job is to come up with a blood substitute, kinda like Sweet ‘N Low for the walking dead, but he’s getting nowhere fast. During the last clinical product trials, the test subject’s head exploded. I’m not fully up to speed on vampire physiology, but that’s waaay more dramatic than any transfusion reaction I’ve ever heard of. Moving right along.
Edward’s got a soft heart, though. He feels for those poor humans Bromley Marks keeps shackled and sedated to farm for blood. That concerns his boss, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). Maybe the kid’s not with the program. Maybe he doesn’t realize how great it is to be a vampire. He might not understand the omelet/egg metaphor. Best to keep an eye on him.
No good deed goes unpunished and Edward gets roped at crossbow-point into helping a resistance group led by Elvis (Willem Dafoe), a former vampire who’s been cured by the light of the sun. Yes, he’s really named Elvis. This creates a conflict of interest with Charles, who really doesn’t want a cure to be found. The point is to make megabucks selling the blood substitute. Now that Edward’s gone off the reservation and joined the other side, it’s time to call out the vampire army to bring these rebels down. Yes, the vampire army. Moving right along.
Charles has good reason to be suspicious. One night, Edward saves a group of fugitive humans led by Audrey (Claudia Karvan) from a roving patrol of vampire police. Yes, Daybreakers really has vampire police. And a vampire army. Moving right along.
No good deed goes unpunished and Edwards shanghaied at crossbow-point into helping a resistance group led by Elvis (Willem Dafoe), a former vampire who’s been cured of his condition by sunlight. Yes, he’s really named Elvis. This puts Edward into a serious conflict of interest position with Bromley Marks. They don’t want a cure to be found. The goal is to make megabucks selling the blood substitute. Now that Edward’s gone off the reservation, it’s time to call in the vampire army to bring these rebels down. Yes, I was deadly serious about the vampire army. Moving right along.
Daybreakers is every bit as ridiculous as you’d expect from that synopsis, but it’s high-spirited and energetic enough that loopiness that would torpedo most other movies just becomes part of Daybreakers’ weirdo charm. The Spierig Brothers have a sure hand with the chase and battle scenes – they’re nothing terribly original, but they’re competently executed and you can always tell what’s going on in any given shot. That’s something of a rarity in modern action flicks and I find it refreshing when genre directors stay with a shot for longer than a picosecond – I’m gazing into your vapid little eyes, Gamer.
Daybreakers is a moderately entertaining time-waster; nothing more, nothing less. Still, moderately entertaining counts as a minor victory in a genre that’s justifiably known for the sheer volume of garbage it barfs into the multiplex. The moral of the story is if what you’re looking for is a night of B-movie fun that’s capably executed with some nifty visuals and gore effects, Daybreakers has what you’re looking for.