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Daybreakers (2010)

Starring:

Claudia Karvan

Emma Randall

Ethan Hawke

Harriet Minto-Day

Isabel Lucas

Jay Laga'aia

Mungo McKay

Robyn Moore

Sam Neill

Willem Dafoe

Directed by:

Michael Spierig

Peter Spierig

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

Country: Australia, United States

Vampires are this season’s must have onscreen accessory and every second person on the cinema or television screen seems to be a bloodsucker. It’s quite apt then that Daybreakers is about a world where it’s cool to be a Vampire and a handful of humans are on the run.

The Vampires of the Spierig Brothers’ Daybreakers are not the usual mind-dead Frankensteins of Romero or the raging snarlers of 28 Days Later… but utterly human except for a pasty complexion and an insatiable need for blood. When blood stocks start to run low, blood scientist and covert human-sympathiser Edward Dalton (Hawke) is put on the case to find a fake-blood alternative. After a chance encounter with a group of humans, including ex-Vampire Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac (Dafoe) and feisty Audrey (Karvan),  he begins to work towards a widespread cure of Vampirism with their help.

With much of the story coming from the Vampire’s side, it’s a an interesting futurist take and the characterisation is well done to make the humanity of the Vampires show through. The Spierig Brothers’ provide enough original strands and clever little details to make Daybreakers stand out a little  in the saturated Vampire-cum-Apocalyptic market, but ultimately, it falls down a little with it’s disjointed and clunky storytelling and some poor onscreen chemistry between the leads – cold Claudia Karvan being the main culprit.

Daybreakers treads a fine line between tongue-in-cheek and serious drama and it sometimes misses the mark.Willem Dafoe’s Elvis is a solitary island of witty absurdity in an otherwise grim and humourless film. After initial uneasiness, it’s easy to warm to Elvis’s inane one-liners, along the lines of ‘As dangerous as riding bareback with a five dollar hooker’, and leaves you wanting more. Dafoe and blood bank corporation boss Sam Neill ham it up to the hilt contrary to Hawkes depressingly straight-as-a-die lead.

It's Got: Lots of blood and zombies, fresh ideas

It Needs: More wisecracking Willem and less stony-faced Ethan

Alternatives:

28 Days Later..., Blade, I Am Legend

Summary

The attention to detail and relative originality of Daybreakers threatens to lift it above the usual Vampire fare but it’s let down in the end by poor storytelling and an unrelenting grimness.

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