Daybreakers

Take THAT, Edward Cullen!

 

Daybreakers.  What a terrible name for a movie, don’t you think?  It sounds like something I’d get at Denny’s: two eggs, over-easy; on two pancakes with hash browns, a side of wheat toast and a glass of orange juice.  Oh, and coffee with 20% blood too, please.   Breakfast,  it’s the most important meal of the day.  And you can’t skimp on the blood.  It’s good for you.  It keeps you from going all sparkly and broody and boring.

I have good news, in addition to sounding like a delicious breakfast, Daybreakers is not a dewy-eyed vampire romance movie teenage girls are going to want to see – unless they are cool (Do you like that? Do you see how I used peer pressure there?).  I keep thinking about breakfast.  It’s rather distracting.  Like in Dracula – when Renfield cuts his finger.  Dracula has to restrain himself from shoving the bleeding finger into his mouth. If Dracula was clever, he’d have had Renfield stir a glass of water with his finger, then drink it a bit later, maybe with some  fruit punch.  Kool-Aid, now with 20% blood!  Oh, Yeah!

I do love breakfast, but let’s get back on topic, yes?

 

It’s the near future and most people have been turned into vampires.  The remaining humans are hooked up to machines that drain their blood or are on the run from vampire military units that aim to capture them for the milking machines.  Other than the vampire thing, society is pretty much the same as it is now and that is the point.

Our main character is Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), who is the vampire equivalent of a vegetarian; he doesn’t drink human blood.  The other vampires think he’s a little weird, but give him less grief about it than the run-of-the-mill American (who eats average of ten tons of bacon and five hundred thousand hamburgers per year)  gives vegetarians.  Oh, and before you start whining, “Hey, is this movie trying to say that I shouldn’t eat steak?  Or bacon? Or steak that’s deep fried and wrapped in bacon? Or kick my dog?  Or make me wear pachouli oil?”  It’s not.  So, shut-up and keep reading.  Geeze.  Simmer down, Lardo.

Okay, Edward Dalton doesn’t dig drinking human blood, but what he does do is work for Bromely Mark; a corporation that would be the love-child of Monsanto and Merk, if the two ever got drunk at a party and went back to Merk’s place “for coffee.”  Dalton heads up a bio-research lab that is trying to make a blood substitute, which he hopes will supplant use of human blood as a food source all together.  The research isn’t going well.  They are so close, but so far away.  It’s kind of like cold nuclear fusion; a technology that will always be viable in fifteen or twenty years time.

Meanwhile, the blood supply is dwindling.  Vampires are starting to get nervous. The price of blood is through the roof and many vampires are starting to get sick from blood deprivation.   Blood deprivation sickness isn’t just a little cough, or blood shot eyes like in the old Hammer Dracula movies, it’s a transformation into something more horrible, more gruesome, more vile — a telemarketer!  Mwahahaha!  Calm down!  I’m kidding.  There, there.  Settle down.  Nobody becomes a telemarketer.  I’m sorry that I frightened you.  Actually they transform into “sub-siders,” blood drinking creatures with bat-like features that drink vampire and human blood alike.  This is pretty much a fate worse than death.  The sub-siders are mercilessly hunted and killed by vampires, who regard them with the utmost disdain.  Still, better that than calling people up during their dinner and trying to sell them bogus car warranties, eh?

Dalton, while driving home from work notices that his ears are getting pointy, a sign that his transformation into a sub-sider is beginning.   Momentarily distracted by the thought of transforming, he swerves into the wrong lane, forcing an oncoming SUV into a power transformer to avoid collision. Dalton stops to help and finds the other car full of humans.  In the distance a police siren is heard.  Dalton offers to hide them in his car, lest they get captured and sent to the milking room. The humans, headed by Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan) reluctantly agree.  The vampire cops pull up and ask Dalton if he is okay.  Dalton says that he is fine.  The cops then tell Dalton that they are looking for the humans in the SUV.  Dalton sends them in the wrong direction, a classic Bugs Bunny move.  After the cops go, the humans leave too, with Bennett telling Dalton that she’ll, “See him around.”  Later she breaks into his house to deliver a message from the humans in hiding.  They know about Dalton and his research.  They have something that they want him to see.  Intrigued, Dalton agrees to meeting.  It turns out that the humans may have found a cure for vampirism.

Some have suggested that blood crisis in Daybreakers is an allegory for oil, a dwindling resource that is the life blood of modern civilization.  Other, more literal minded people have suggested that the movie is about vegetarianism.  I think that Daybreakers is way more subversive than merely suggesting that people give up hamburgers and driving around in monster trucks.  I think that Daybreakers is suggesting that the corporate masters and their puppets in government have created a system and hold it in place for their own benefit, at the expense of those least able to bear the cost, damning them to an existence as sub-siders. Corporate bosses and politicians truly are vampires, parasites living off others.  I wonder, do the vampires give old cans of blood soaked green beans to the sub-sider charities at Christmas?  Probably not.

Am I saying that Daybreakers is Marxists propaganda?  No.  All I’m saying is that it certainly blows a big bloody loogey right into the face of that most hallowed of institutions- corporate privilege.  Maybe I’m totally wrong and it is about oil or not eating Bossie the cow.  I guess I’ll have to wait for the DVD extras to know for sure.  Though if I made this movie, I’d be pretty coy about letting on that I was pissing all over the holy board room.  So maybe we’ll learn nothing that way.  I’ll just stick with my own interpretation.  Up yours, AIG!

Another thing about Daybreakers is that this is the first movie that I’ve seen  in a while were people smoke.  Okay, vampires, not people, and they smoke . . .  a lot.  The human characters, on the other hand, don’t smoke.  I imagined vampire tobacco farmers, tending the field at night.   It’s a little thing that I thought was kind of funny.

So how is it as a vampire movie?  It’s not bad.  The vampire effects are okay.  I thought the movie was heavy handed with the CGI, which is going to make it look dated in a few years.  The sub-siders look good as monster movie creatures.  I do like the design.  They’re part bat and part human in appearance.  There seems to be some variety in appearance as well, which is in keeping with the idea that they are progressively transformed though blood deprivation.

Daybreakers has a lot of action, including a rather interesting take on the tried and true car chase scene and gun battles with guns that hurl wooden stakes (vampires, you know?).   As an added bonus we’re treated to some very bloody vampire on vampire hand to hand combat, which not something we get to see very often.

The movie is paced like an action film, thus we lose a bit of character development as a result.   There is nothing about this movie that is bad. There is nothing that really stands out for it’s sheer awesomeness either. It’s a study in competence.  I was a bit hesitance in accepting a world populated by vampires as a plot point going into the movie, but it turned out to be more interesting than I expected.  I will say this, it was nice to see a monster movie that wasn’t about sparkling fairy vampires or a zombie siege.   Thanks.

Starring:
Ethan Hawke
Willem Dafoe
Claudia Karvan
Sam Neill
Michael Dorman
Isabel Lucas
Vince Colosimo

Screenplay:
Michael Spierig
Peter Spierig

Director:
Michael Spierig
Peter Spierig

Two and half out of five Vincents

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