Review: Daybreakers (2010)
The Spielrig Brothers' Daybreakers is a dim, dumb, unfocused vampire story which makes a modicum of sense as you watch it, then later you're like, "Was that a movie I watched? Did stuff happen? Did it mean anything?" and the answers are: sorta, kinda and not really.
Ethan Hawke plays Edward Dalton, the chief hematologist for Bromley Marks pharmaceuticals, which is trying to develop a blood substitute to feed the mostly vampire population. Human supplies are running low, most of the humans have been eaten or farmed to the end of their lives for their blood supply.
So how does the economy work? How does the government work? How has society been altered by the conversion of most of the population into superpowerful vampires with eternal lives? These are some good questions.
The film isn't too interested in them, however. And hey, it's not my high concept, I'm not going to be better at telling you than the film. There are a few indicators. There's a Vampire Army and propaganda messages to turn in humans to the authorities, there are nifty auto navigation systems which blot out the sun and use video navigation only, and Matrix-echoing Third Reich and concentration camp references too superfluous to be distasteful. But these details don't add up to a plausible, interesting picture of Vampire World. Instead, it's a massive fail.
If you're not too excited about your own high concept (or too excited to think it through and say something with it), you'd better get something going on a character level, or you're going to be in trouble. Daybreakers is in trouble, because there's nothing going on at that level, either.
Ethan Hawke mopes and grimaces. The character of his brother, a member of the Vampire Army, gets way too much screen time, isn't compelling, and even becomes annoying one or two times too many to forgive. Sam Neill is all right as the head of Bromley Marks, but his character is boring. The dialogue is heinous and stultifying. Even Willem Dafoe basically has nothing to do here.
There are some decent effects on display when some ravening, starving vampires stage a few attacks, and when Ethan Hawke volunteers for some de-vampirization experiments, but that's the sum total of what's good here. Even big group vampire attacks are lame, the blood looks like something that drains out of somewhere in my car when I get it serviced--and not in a neat metaphorical way, it's just sludge.
I want to like vampire movies, I even gave Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant a solid three stars. That movie at least had some fun and interest, solid acting even with a cheesy storyline, and some impact from the casting of Willem Dafoe in a small role.
Daybreakers is a boring, stupid, bloody mess. It is only the second review I have ever written awarding no stars. I could happily have passed two and a half hours in a similarly constructed film which made sense and had characters to enjoy watching and identifying with in some way, but as it is, I could barely stand a little more than an hour and a half. Avoid at all costs.
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