Directed by Peter & Michael Spierig
2010, R, 98 min.
Having premiered at the 34th Annual Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2009, but seeing its wide theatrical debut on January 8, 2010 (I caught it yesterday in Chicago), “Daybreakers” is a thinking man’s vampire film.
Essentially, the movie takes place in the year 2019 where a viral outbreak has caused the majority of the Earth’s population to mutate into vampires. Blood, previously mass-produced from poor human victims, becomes more and more scarce as the vampires drive humanity to the point of complete extinction. To make matters worse, should a vampire go long enough without consuming blood, he or she shall become a bestial, vicious bat-like creature. The story focuses on hematologist/researcher Edward Dalton as he struggles to come up with a cure in order to save humans from the seemingly inevitable genocide.
The vamps are unique enough, and for classic horror fans, nearly all of the Bram Stoker-era vampire traits are there: lack of a reflection, inability to be exposed to sunlight, and, of course, the fangs.
“Daybreakers” is a two-sided coin, and all of the entertainment boxes are checked: On one hand, there’s plenty of blood and gore to keep the vampire fanatics thrilled (warning: this isn’t your clichéd “Twilight” teenie-bopper movie!); on the other hand, for those who want to delve deeper into the story, there are brilliant sociopolitical parallels available. To put it simply, this may very well be the first of its kind: an anti-capitalist vampire film.
Tossing all conventionality out the window, “Daybreakers” pits the capitalist vampiric government against the desperate working-class vampires, who are rounded up and terminated for the unjustifiable glorification and wallet-filling of their so-called “betters.” Also present here is a startling resemblance between the brainwashed vampire military of this tale and the real-life U.S. military, composed of, in this film, many a not-so-bright bulb including the indoctrinated younger brother of the story’s protagonist.
A powerfully intelligent analysis of – unfortunately – today’s American society in the form of a horror/sci-fi fangfest with a corporate horde of vamps who eventually meet their end for their plutocratic plundering. In the end, a sun’s ray of hope pierces through the capitalist-plagued veil of night…
As for the cast, the acting is spot on. Willem Dafoe’s performance is applause-worthy as always, and Ethan Hawke plays a very convincing sympathetic and socially conscious vampire in an age teetering on the brink of human extermination.
It’s nice to see a rallying point for working class Americans in the form of entertaining fiction, especially when the vampire genre’s been boring and diluted for so long. In closing, this is edge-of-your-seat entertainment done right and breathes new life into vampire movies. And maybe this will act as an inspiration to stand up for the underdogs and make a stand against a right-wing mass that has become synonymous with zero accountability. So skip the “New Moon” movie and go check out “Daybreakers.” You’ll get more fang for your buck.