Monday, January 25, 2010


Welcome to the world of 2019, where the day-to-day has become the night-to-night after a vampire plague has turned most of humanity into vampires. The good news is that oil doesn't seem all that important anymore. The bad news is that human blood is the new oil, with fresh supplies dwindling rapidly. But a dour, chain-smoking Hematologist (Ethan Hawke) is on the game, looking for an alternative for a multinational blood chain. Thing is, he's looking into a cure, and that's not in the interest of the corporation's bottom line. Sociopolitical satire and sporadic action sequences ensue.

Which is all well and fine, but as such Daybreakers falls into the inherent weakness of the vampire genre. Too much time spent with the monster morosely waxing existential. Not much joy de morte. Too much telling, not showing. The moments when Willem Dafoe shows up to chew the scenery infuses a li'l hot blood into the proceedings, but feels like they belong in another picture. Like he wandered in off a D2DVD sequel to John Carpenter's Vampires.

Daybreakers never really settles on exactly what kind of horror film it wants to be. Is it a dark comedy, a bloody actioner or heavy-handed sociopolitical allegory? Even Romero can't pull off the latter anymore, and he's an old hand. And while Tarantino may pull off mash-ups, he's spent an inordinate amount of time getting it down. The brothers Spierigs are pups, and don't have the chops yet to try and tackle such a difficult stunt.

What I enjoyed most about the Brothers Spierig's debut zombie slapstick debut Undead was their obvious exhilaration in making a movie without any money, a roll-up-the-sleeves and bark-the-knuckles in a Aussie "get-er-done" delirium. None of that energy seems to be on display with Daybreakers, as if being handed a real budget has sapped their creative spunk. Or worse, exacerbated the creativity to the point that they try to pack two or three movies worth of ideas into one, without having the discipline (yet) to make it cohesive.

Ultimately I found Daybreakers to be no fun. It was sloppily written, a barely connected series of vignettes rather than a cohesive narrative. Subplots are introduced and left mostly unexplored, or resolved abruptly. What should be left as subtext is made overt through dialogue.

But it's not a horrible entry, and the political cartoon aspect might be fun for budding anarchists. And I do respect that it's more ambitious than most American genre multiplex filler.

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