Monday 2 August 2010

Daybreakers (2009)

What is it with vampires these days?

Daybreakers is the logical conclusion of our current pop obsession (popsession?) with vampires. Told from their viewpoint, they are the mainstream, the norm, the mundane. They are the bureaucratic drones and the police force. In other words, they are The Man.

The year is 2019, and it's been ten years since this film's release the outbreak of vampiritis. Since then, most people have turned into yellow-eyed undead with prominent canines. The blood of humans is quickly running out, and the few humans left are farmed in big Harkonnen-style warehouses owned by the Sam Neill Corporation of Exploitation. In other words, The Man.

Into this dystopian setting we thrust the usual bureaucratic minion, Edward Cullen Dalton (Ethan Hawke and his cheekbones). Edward is a sensitive, thoughtful pacifist/feminist/insert your sensitive, thoughtful cause here, and he's gone vegetarian. Unfortunately, not drinking human blood makes you turn into a ye olde vampire, the silent film kind, complete with no hair and horrible wings. Edward's brother, police force Frankie (Michael Dorman), severely disapproves of this counterculture tendencies. Edward himself feels pretty lost, until he bumps into the Requisite Female Emancipator, this time a human named (apparently) Audrey (Claudia Karvan), who introduces him to the man (did you read that, right? MAN. it's a MAN, people! the ladies get no love anywhere, it seems) who purports to have found the "cure" for vampiritis. By the way, this man is played by Willem Dafoe.

So there you have it! Is it worth the price of admission or the price of a DVD? Not really. It's a popcorn-churning, bloodgushing B-movie that delights in itself with some self-aware levity (did we mention vampires explode when a stake goes through their hearts? THEY EXPLODE.), though it never manages to break into truly eye-opening weirdness or truly coherent satire. What oppressed class are the humans supposed to be? We thought they were tuna or salmon for much of the film.

Ethan Hawke is a boring hero; imagine Keanu Reeves on a lot of Valium. Our beloved Sam Neill is his usual glorious self, though he does get involved in a very questionable sequence involving his human renegade daughter (Isabel Lucas), Policeman Frankie and a sort of Medieval "I sell you my daughter's virginity" prison rape. Was this eroticized vampirism and dodgy morals supposed to stick it to the Twilight people? Maybe.

Actually, the whole movie feels like an un-Twilight: a reaction to and play against the tired old vampire tropes that seem so pervasive in our fantasy genre these days. While it doesn't take itself as seriously as Twilight, and therefore is slightly less ridiculous, it still takes itself way too seriously: it is, after all, about a brooding vampire anti-hero stuck in the grind of a desaturated life. A little more sparkly color and slapstick might have been a better choice (or a little more feminism/postcolonialism; just sayin'). Overall, it's a C+: not as crafty and clever as other, better B-horrors (Shaun of the Dead, the almighty Slither), but not horrible either.


Adeline said...

Namaste PPCC-ji,

You've been tagged as one of my favorite blogs :-)

Unknown said...

more reviews?