“Daybreakers” Review


Possible Spoilers Ahead

The popularity of the “Twilight” books and movie series has created a resurgence in new vampire fiction.  While publishing houses and other mainstream media outlets pump out teen friendly angst ridden dreck, “Daybreakers” is a vampire movie with a killer science fiction premise, a cool aesthetic, great performers, and vampires that – when exposed to sunlight – burst into flames.

It is 2019 and a plague has turned most of the human and animal population into vampires.  Humans are a rare, endangered, and dangerous species that the vamps are hunting and farming for food.  The demand for human blood far outstrips the human supply.  Vampire fifth columnists, human survivors, degenerate vamps starving for blood they can’t afford, and the head of a huge vampire pharmaceutical company drive the story forward to a flash-fire-ashes-whirling-on-the-wind ending.

Written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, “Daybreakers” is a smart genre movie.  The story is well plotted and moves along at a nice clip without feeling rushed.  The Spierigs do a great job of giving viewers a real taste for the world they’ve created.  The movie has a great look that adds visual and narrative texture – not only do the visuals look cool but they have story value that provide the subtly needed for vampire society and culture to feel real, even normal.  The Spierigs are able to communicate all the exposition without having to really explain anything.  Like a well laid out comic book page, the visual and narrative information in every frame is easy to find and has a very organic flow.

Hand in hand with strong plot, “Daybreakers” has strong characters.  The Spierigs keep with plot moving and are able to develop characters that are whole and interesting.  Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe turn in great performances.  All the cast does a superb job and there are plenty of quiet moments that give depth to the characters’ relationships.

The action scenes and visual are great and are in service of the story.  Weta Workshop did the creature work – no need to say more.  Weta made some of the vampires so scary, other vampires were afraid of them.  There are crossbow fights, chair legs driven through hearts, flames, and of course bloody feedings.

“Daybreakers” opened in the U.S. the same weekend as “Avatar” so it never captured the attention it deserved. This one never made my radar until it’s DVD release and it is worth seeing.  If you don’t think vampires twinkle, and you dig monsters that are made monstrous because of their drives and ambitions and not by their fangs, and you like crossbow fights, “Daybreakers” will not disappoint.