Rating: 3 out of 5
A middle-aged vampire is screaming down a road in his souped-up sports car. The windows are tinted to shield him from the sun.
But the vampire hits a fence, smashes through the windscreen and is ignited by sunlight. A screaming fireball, he lands in a river—and emerges human.
This is just one of several excruciating ways in which the undead can resurrect their humanity in Daybreakers, a retro-futuristic B-movie executed with A-list assurance by two relatively new, German-born directors, Michael and Peter Spierig.
The film’s impressive cast is led by Ethan Hawke, who plays Ed, a scientist searching for a blood substitute in a comic-book world, where the supply of humans is dwindling due to over-hunting and consumption by vampires.
Ed works for a pharmaceutical giant called Bromley Mark, but he has serious qualms about the company’s practice of farming humans for research.
Ed is not satisfied with finding a blood substitute, which would render humans unnecessary. In fact, he wants to achieve the opposite: find a cure for vampirism to save the human race.
Enter Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac (Willem Dafoe)—that is, the fireball guy who falls into the river and becomes human again.
Tadaa! Ed has his answer. It turns out that too much sunlight can kill vampires, but some sunlight is a great cure for immortality.
Together with Elvis and a love interest played by acclaimed Australian actress Claudia Karvan, Ed discovers a way to simulate controlled sunlight exposure and revivify vampires without any use of sunblock.
Now all he has to do is sell the technology to his diabolical boss (Sam Neill), who of course has no interest in saving humans, and wants to kill Ed and all other conscience-ridden vampires.
The unsurprising result is a literal life-and-death battle, executed with such gory relish even the most desensitised of horror aficionados might blush. The action is further supported by credible stars who are able to simulate deeper levels of emotional and moral complexity than the material actually contains.
Daybreakers serves up a dose of good-quality Hollywood nonsense. It’s worth catching if you’re looking for mindless entertainment and/or enjoy watching teenage moviegoers freak the hell out.
About Ken Kwek
Ken Kwek is a playwright and screenwriter. His film credits include The Ballad of Vicki and Jake (2005), The Blue Mansion (2009) and the forthcoming Kidnapper (2010).