Despite some negative reviews, Daybreakers held its own. I strongly disagree with Rolling Stone, which called it a “B Movie.”
Maybe because I didn’t pretend it was something it’s not. Daybreakers is a vampire movie, plain and simple. Like most vampire movies, it does not aspire to be an Oscar-winner, nor does it crave critical acclaim (a notable exception to this rule was 1994’s Interview With the Vampire).
Because it’s a vampire movie, Daybreakers automatically does not appeal to many movie-goers, and that’s fine. It wasn’t made for them.
However, ranked within its genre, I think Daybreakers holds up very well among the all-time best vampire movies. You’ll find dozens of lists on the internet, but here are my top six (in order of release): The Lost Boys (1987), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Interview With the Vampire (1994), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Blade (1998), and Underworld (2003).
Not only does Daybreakers give a fresh take on these mythical creatures of the night, but it presents a believable, realistic world, once you assume vampires exist. The action is exciting and scary, the characters’ emotions come through the big screen very well. It’s well-filmed, filled with quality acting from Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Michael Dorman, Willem Dafoe, and Caludia Karvan.
Dafoe steals the show in several scenes, mainly because lines written for him were the smartest, but the most impressive acting came from relative newcomer Dorman. Despite being a New Zealand native and living in Australia, he pulls off the American accent perfectly. His character is the only one that has a real arc to it in the film, and he pulls it off.
Plot Synopsis: It’s 2019, and the last 10 years have seen vampires “turning” so many humans that there aren’t many people left. The world is run by vampires, and it’s very vampire friendly. There are underground tunnels instead of sidewalks, cars customized for day driving (blackout windows and close-circuit TV for viewing the road), and even “human farms” where the remaining humans are kept for their blood.
But blood (primary food source for vampires) is running out. While working on a viable blood substitute, Ethan Hawke’s character runs into real-life humans, and one human who claims he’s a healed vampire (Dafoe). Hawke is sympathetic to the humans’ cause, and has never been much of a blood-sucker anyway.
His brother (Dorman), though, is loyal to the vampire’s cause and tries to come after them, just as they come close to “curing” vampirism.
My points off came from a few genre-specific things, like Hawke’s reflection not showing up in the rear-view mirror. Don’t get me wrong, that was a cool detail that *had* to be there. But then he shaves with a special TV setup. Come on, people. Mirrors cast reflections using the same light that hit our eyeballs, and the same light that a camera’s photo-sensors will see. If you show up on TV, then you’ll show up in a mirror. This bothered me, even though it’s normal vampire ideology.
It was also odd that Hawke spends the last third of the film dressed like Han Solo. Again, don’t get me wrong, he’d make a great Han Solo if someone were to remake Star Wars, but in *this* movie?
I also probably would have tweaked the ending just a little, or told a little more of the story as the credits rolled… But I’m getting used to films that end without making up my mind for me.
Overall, I’m glad a real vampire movie was released in these days of “Twilight” fads. Hopefully, 10 years from now, people will remember this movie, and not the Twilight series.
(for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity)
Length: 98 min. (1:38)
Director: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Genre: vampire / action / drama / sci-fi
My Rating: 8 of 10
Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Mungo McKay, Willem Dafoe, Isabel Lucas, Michael Dorman