And here we have it--the first horror release of 2010! From Australia's Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter, the guys who brought you UNDEAD) comes the (approximately) five-hundred-and-twelfth vampire film of the last two years, but don't let THAT stop you from checking out a worthwhile effort by any means.
Okay, the trailers gave you the general idea. Thanks to a viral plague (started by a single bat), vampires are now the majority, and the remaining "normal" humans (approximately five percent of the Earth's population) have been decreed enemies of the state and are to be rounded up (as one's patriotic duty) for "farming" purposes. BUT... the extremely limited supply of humans won't sustain the vampires much longer--and if the vampires don't get fed, very bad things happen to them. Reluctant vampire (and expert hematologist) Ethan Hawke knows that the world either needs a blood substitute or an actual cure for vampirism... but corporate boss Sam Neill (superb casting, naturally) only cares about...
And if that's not enough, we've also got Willem Dafoe. Enough said.
The film is sumptuously detailed throughout--the Brothers Spierig also contributed to the visual effects and the art direction alone is enough to make DAYWALKERS worth seeing on the big screen. The vampires will satisfy anyone who's in no mood for TWILIGHT (hmmm... is either the film's title or the fact that Hawke's character is named "Edward" a coincidence?)--they have fangs, they viciously bite the jugular (with utterly no sparing of the geysers of resulting gore), and the effects of starvation make them physically monstrous (including the growth of winglike appendages) as well (the makeup and effects are quite outstanding). Just one thing I didn't go for--though it makes for a neat (if pointless) special effect, there's really no justification for the fact that these vampires can't be seen in mirrors--we've made it quite clear that this is a viral disease and not a supernatural curse, so there's no revulsion at the sign of the cross, and there's no plausible explanation for the "mirror" thing at all (besides, they DO respond to retinal scanning and other security measures!!!). If that sounds picky, just consider the rich detail that the screenplay provides for just about everything else.
The modern adaptations are similarly captivating--from a daytime "subwalk" to a tricked-out Chrysler specifically adapted for "night mode" driving. But it's the influence of the 1980s that hangs most specifically over this production... the tributes to LIFEFORCE and (especially) NEAR DARK are blatant, obvious--and greatly appreciated. And yet there's still plenty of innovation on hand... without giving the game away, let me just say that DAYBREAKERS features an original and hugely satisfying "chain reaction" gorefest near the end--it will suffice to say that you'll be reminded just a little bit of the climactic moments of DAY OF THE DEAD, but that it's still very much its own animal. And for that matter, George A. Romero himself would have to salute a horror film that depicts a society which essentially condemns the sick, homeless and/or dangerous to mass execution in the name of protecting, well, those who can afford to be protected!
Flaws? Sure, we've got them. The scenes of urban (vampire) panic and socio-economic (blood) meltdown are far more captivating than the rustic sequences in which our heroes work on "the cure." There are WAY too many false climaxes and instances of stupid behavior on the part of the protagonists (really? You're going to let this guy answer his cellphone and have a PRIVATE conversation at THAT point???) just to keep stretching the chase/suspense business out. But none of that sinks the movie.
DAYBREAKERS is a good and encouraging start to the horror year of 2010, scoring well with the acting, the writing, the direction, the visuals AND, of course, the no-holds-barred HORROR. By all means, check it out.
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