This film isn’t the “Vampire Matrix,” I promise. The lead character is interested in changing things from the outset, for example. Further, humans aren’t used as batteries exactly, there is no computer reality, and Laurence Fishburne is nowhere to be seen.
In the year 2009, humanity suffered the effects of a new plague, originating with a bat, that swept across the world turning a great number of human beings into vampires.
Let’s be clear about something: these vampires are not cool. They can’t vanish or become bats or wolves or exhibit great strength or anything of the sort. They don’t even sparkle in the sun, though exposure will reduce them to cinders. They explode when skewered with a stick. Clearly, the vampires of Daybreakers have all the drawbacks and none of the benefits of their condition. Of course, immortality is desirable even without the other perks.
By 2019, vampires have taken over the earth. A few humans are held in (very uncomfortable) storage by Bromley Marks Pharmaceuticals. A few more are on the run, labeled as enemies of the state by toothy talking heads.
If this all sounds a little comical, well, it is pretty funny, really. They explode.
Anyway, the vampires are running out of food. It might have been wise to put less of it in coffee. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a scientist working for Bromley Marks in an attempt to discover a blood substitute. Unfortunately, when dire shortages lead Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) to push the project ahead, Dalton’s substitute causes his undead test subject to explode.
No, this guy kind of popped, actually. The others, staked with table legs or shot with arrows, explode. We’re not talking about a gout of blood here. That would be popping. I mean an all-out explosion with fire and a boom. We don’t know why.
Hawke’s character is searching for a way to save the human race (more than the vampires, though he is one). Call him soft hearted. He will eventually fall in with Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) who will show him that there’s a better solution than blood substitute.
The vampirism itself may be the most involving character in the film, though. Poor dialogue and lack of characterization (despite Hawke’s somber brow) push the players into the background, whereupon the systems and symptoms of this plague come to the forefront.
If you drink your own blood or go without for too long, you transform into a horrible thing call a Subsider. That’s “one from the side which is subterranean,” not “one who settles or descends.” Interestingly, these Subsiders possess extreme physical mutations, many of which are beneficial to blood-crazed killing machines.
Yes, Subsiders explode, too. Also, hum-vees.
The Spierig brothers (Undead, The Big Picture) wrote, directed and created effects for the film, working hard to get the look and feel just so. Wetta Workshop contributed to special effects as well. Visually, the film is grim, detailed, and visceral. Their plot won’t shake the earth, but then Daybreakers isn’t your normal vampire movie.
It’s a vampire/sci-fi/action movie. Did I mention? They explode!
What’s more, it’s a grim and bloody alternative to teenage tripe. Nobody sparkles in this flick, I assure you. Sure, it’s a bit silly in places, but I think we can all agree that exploding vampires put any project into column “B.” As a B movie in a time when vampiric sloppy eaters are welcome, Daybreakers succeeds pretty well.
I give it 5 of 10 stakes.