Saturday, March 06, 2010

Daybreakers (2009)

It's 2019, ten years after an 'outbreak' resulted in the mass turning of humanity into vampires. Now the population of un-turned humans is running critically low and the nocturnal successor civilisation is starting to suffer the consequences of blood deprivation.

Ethan Hawke plays Ed, a vampire with a conscience, whose night job involves leading a team of hematologists at Bromsley Marks tasked with developing a blood substitute. Ed doesn't take blood in his coffee however, and deep down would rather find a cure and it is this possibility which soon presents itself in the person of turned-again mechanic Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac, played by Willem Dafoe.

The only other time I recall seeing the conceit of bloodsucker cultural mores explored this cleverly was in the Cuban animation Vampiros en la Habana (incidentally one of my favourite movies of all time.) Here too the premise has great potential for political and sociological satire, but Daybreakers, in spite of its strong cast and production design remains essentially a B movie sci-fi shocker. The excitement doesn't waver, but there's a noted drift towards mediocrity in the second half.

Perhaps this is more the fault of restricted budget than any natural constraints in the imagination of the Spierig twins. Still, the question of whether the undead lifestyle is somehow preferable to being actually dead is just one of the deeper implications of this narrative which are ultimately given the shallow treatment.

Grade: B+

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