DVD REVIEW Daybreakers
The future sucks
2009 * 94 mins * 18 * £19.99 * 31 May 2010
Also available on Blu-ray (£24.99)
Directors: Michael and Peter Spierig
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill, Michael Dorman
They’re faster, stronger and nastier than we are, so why are screen vampires reduced to skulking around in the shadows while we humans go about our daily business? Daybreakers puts bloodsuckers in their rightful place at the top of the food chain, establishing a civilised society of vamps who farm the few remaining humans for blood. The only problem is, the red stuff’s about to run out…
With the screen vampire getting more and more ubiquitous, it’s refreshing to see a movie so eager to put an unconventional spin on the mythos. Writer/director twin brothers the Spierigs have created a plausible future loaded with real-world allegory (oil shortages, the unstoppable rise of the vamp) that wisely skirts blood-stained dystopia territory to create a world that’s essentially just like ours – clever little touches like cars rigged for safe daytime running show how the planet has adapted in the ten years since the rise of the vamps.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t quite as strong as the world building. Sympathetic vamp Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke)’s journey from scientist trying to develop a synthetic blood substitute to human revolutionary offers few surprises, with his convenient discovery of a cure for vampirism feeling particularly undercooked. Elsewhere, the effects aren’t always worthy of the production’s ambition, Sam Neill plays Dalton’s scheming CEO with too much panto villain sneer, and the overplayed bat imagery feels at odds with the film’s appetite for keeping it real. Even so, Daybreakers inhabits such a richly drawn world that it’s somewhere you’d like to spend more time.
The 85-minute Making Of is a cut above, providing an admirably comprehensive look at the movie’s journey to the screen. There’s also a commentary by the Spierigs and creature designer Steve Boyle.