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Daybreakers (2010)

by on 2010/05/21

“Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
the superstitious atheist.”
~ Robert Browning

* * * *

 A bit of Browning seemed a fitting start for this love letter to the brothers Spierig – the German-born, Australian-raised twin brothers who directed and produced Daybreakers (2010).

Daybreakers is a beautiful and terrible portrait of a tortured and unwilling predator. This visually stunning film is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a vampiric plague has wiped out all by a few humans and turned mainstream population into blood-sucking fiends.

The vampires face a global crisis: humans have been hunted and harvested into near extinction. As the film begins, we watch the best scientific and corporate minds scramble to address a worldwide famine.

The plague, started by bat bites, turn the undead hosts who go without human blood long enough into the next level down from vampire — twisted bat-like creatures called subsiders. Subsiders will be the things under your bed at night for weeks to come after watching this movie.

With the clock ticking and subsider numbers growing, hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) struggles to find a replacement for human blood. Hawke creates a layered character in Dalton – a vampire tortured by his sympathy for humans.

After a fluke car accident, Dalton stumbles upon a human Underground Railroad lead by charismatic car mechanic Elvis (Willem Dafoe). As Dalton turns his back on life as he knows it, he finds an answer to the global crisis and faces a world of fresh problems.

The world of vampires is richly conceived down to the last detail – from the ads in the subway to the McMansions in suburbia. Morning Starbucks are laced with O positive and the brothers Spierig let you watch the blood form crimson clouds in the coffee.

Each scene, set detail and prop are lovingly created and chosen by an artist’s sure and studied hand. As a result, Daybreakers mainstreams vampires successfully, with none of the goofy ham-handedness of HBO’s True Blood.

The movie is packed with outstanding performances. Sam Neill’s portrayal of a pharmaceutical tycoon and undead robber baron Charles Bromley is pitch perfect. Dafoe’s Elvis is charming. Hawke’s 1,000-mile stare will break your heart.

Plus there are enough heart-stopping sudden starts, gore and viscera to leave the most jaded horror fan gasping breathlessly for more.

Brothers Spierig please keep making movies whatever you do. I’ll be there.

* * * *

Rated R for violence

98 minutes

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