Sunday, December 15, 2013

Daybreakers (2009)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

In 2019, the world’s population is stuck in an age of darkness after an outbreak of vampirism. The remaining humans are hunted and harvested for blood to feed the vampires, and the humans, who refused to turn are forced to live a life of secrecy in the night shadows and daylight for their only chances at survival.

As a vampire, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) works for Bromley Marks, a powerful corporation that remains at the top of the list for the largest blood supplier in the United States, as the Chief Hematologist. With help from his trusted colleague, Chris (Vince Colosimo) Edward plans to invent a blood substitute to salvage what’s left of the human population. But the first human test for the blood substitute is a failure, after the test subject is forced to suffer a painful death.

The world’s blood supply is running low, and without a proper feeding source, the vampires will transform into subsiders, a mindless and feral creature. Fearing the worst, Charles Bromley (SamNeill), Edward’s boss and the owner of Bromely Marks, urges Edward to work out all the kinks for the blood substitute.

The vampires are forced to deal with a dwindling human population and a shortage of blood, and recent projections uncover a startling discovery: the vampires will run out of blood in less than a month, if Edward and his team are unable to perfect a new substitute. Edward pushes for a cure, but Mr. Bromely is more concerned with making money from blood sales. On top of that, Mr. Bromley rejects Edward’s proposal to use the substitute as a primary source of blood with the promise of allowing humans to roam free in a vampire world with no worries, because customers will always pay extra for the “real thing.”

With a limited number of options in front of him, Edward takes a risky chance, when he agrees to join a vampire resistance movement. Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan) and Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) work with other dedicated team members to find a cure to end the vampire plague once and for all. Elvis plans to use sunlight for the cure, and Edward is willing to help with the tests.

But Edward’s brother is a loyal and dedicated solider in the US Vampire Army, a force dedicated to hunting all humans for the never ending harvest. Frankie Dalton (Michael Dorman) makes a promise to Mr. Bromley: he will bring Edward and his partners to justice for his crimes as a traitor. And Mr. Bromley needs some help with his estranged daughter, Alison (Isabel Lucas), so he asks Frankie for a favor. With each passing second, the world’s blood supply is running low, and Edward is running out of time to come up with a cure, as military search parties monitor his every move……

Ethan Hawke is a solid leading man, as the conflicted hematologist, who’s motivated by a newfound sense of morality. Willem Dafoe delivers an entertaining performance as Elvis. Elvis is a cocky warhorse, who won’t back down from a fight, and Dafoe brought an enjoyable sense of humor to this character. Claudia Karvan’s Audrey isn’t bad at all, but in the grand scheme of things, her character is a third wheel most of the time.

Sam Neill’s Charles Bromley is your typical greedy and soulless business tycoon, who’s obsessed with making more money at all costs. Neill is a suitable fit for this character, and Bromley is a respectable antagonist. Dorman’s Frankie is a shameless loyalist to Bromley and the vampire population. You can see Frankie’s change of heart (more on that later) coming from a mile away, but Dorman’s performance is decent enough. Isabel Lucas? I can’t say too much about her, because Alison is limited to a few sporadic appearances here, so it’s not fair to judge Lucas’ performance.

I appreciate the noticeable attempts to authenticate Daybreakers’ all vampire world. Vampire patrons have the choice of adding blood to their coffee, and of course, the amounts of blood are regulated to 5% during the blood shortage. At the subway station, you’ll see an Uncle Sam-esque poster urging citizens to join the US Vampire Army, so they can help with the hunt for humans. Cars feature a “daylight” mode, so vampires can drive safely in the daytime, and each car is equipped with dark tinted windows and monitors to see everything on the outside.

And you get to feel the burden of unwilling vampire citizens, who can’t live with the guilt of feeding on humans. The movie opens with an intro of a small vampire girl, who commits suicide by sitting outside during sunrise, and in her journal, she explains how she couldn’t live with the shame anymore.

So Elvis accidentally discovered the cure for vampirism after a failed attempt at suicide one day. Exposure to the sun is capable of reversing the effects, and Elvis carries the cure in his veins. After an experiment with sunlight, Edward cures himself, and Edward joins Elvis as the second person in the world, who carries the cure. During a standoff with Frankie, Frankie bites Elvis in the neck, because he’s desperate for blood. But Frankie isn’t aware of Elvis’ condition, and Elvis’ blood cures Frankie. Here, it’s revealed vampires are capable of becoming normal again, if they bite a cured victim.

But it’s not over yet, Bromley is holding Audrey hostage, and he’s draining her blood at the same time. Edward sets a trap by willingly walking through the doors of Bromley Marks. In Bromley’s office, Edward goads Charles into biting him by mentioning a dead Alison. Long story short, Charles used Frankie to turn Alison against her will, but Alison refused to drink any blood, so she transformed into a subsider. After a while, Alison was sentenced to death with other subsiders during a march into the sunlight.

Unbeknownst to Charles, Edward is carrying the cure, so Edward heals Charles after the bite. Human Charles suffers a brutal demise afterwards. He’s tied up in a chair that’s sitting in the elevator. The doors open, and a pack of starved vampire soldiers literally tear him apart, and they drink every ounce of blood from his body.

In the lobby, Frankie sacrifices himself to give Edward a chance to save Audrey. The vampire soldiers devour what’s left of him in a matter of moments, but remember this, Frankie is carrying the cure, so after a round of bites, the vampire soldiers are transformed into humans again…..and the vampire soldiers murder the human soldiers until there’s nobody left. It’s a nasty cycle of vampires turn human, vampires eat and kill humans, rinse and repeat, and it goes on and on until Chris shows up. But Elvis returns to save Audrey and Edward with a crossbow through Chris’ chest. For the final shot of the movie, Edward, Audrey, and Elvis ride off into the sunrise together, with newfound hope for the future.

I alluded to this before, but Frankie turning on Bromley and the vampire movement was a predictable swerve. You knew Frankie would dig down deep, and find the courage to do the right thing, and close up any open wounds with his brother (remember, Frankie turned Edward against his will). Although, I will say this, Daybreakers deserves some credit for a clever spin, when they turned Bromely.

What’s the plan? This was the big question on my mind, when Edward was sitting in Bromley’s office with Audrey. How in the hell is he going to escape this? After Edward mentioned Bromley’s daughter, and after Edward pushed a red button by calling Bromley a “coward,” I knew what was coming next. Still, it’s a cunning and genuinely surprising set up, because I couldn’t predict Edward’s methods for an exit strategy.

Back to Audrey for a minute. I called her a third wheel earlier, and my feelings for this label are reinforced during the finale. Daybreakers NEVER hints at a developing relationship between these two, but you get the feeling Edward risked everything for the love of his life? To make matters worse, Elvis is the one, who saves the day at the end, not Audrey. I know I sound really nitpicky here, but the Audrey character feels really useless most of the time.

Will Daybreakers change the landscape of vampire films forever? No. No it won’t. In fact, I think it’s safe to say Daybreakers is on the forgotten list for vampire films, and this one was released in 2009. You can blame some of that on the influx of vampire films over they years (same thing happened with zombie flicks), because Daybreakers is stuck in a crowded bunch now. On the flip-side, Daybreakers succumbs to a lot of familiar genre tropes and a few generic characters. It’s a shame, because Daybreakers could’ve been that one film that changed everything.

Still, Daybreakers is a satisfying treat for horror fans. I’ll give credit, where credit is due, because Daybreakers takes a refreshing chance on being something different. Daybreakers gushes blood as a viscerally violent vampire flick, and the disgusting finale should please any gore fiend. Daybreakers is one of my personal all-time favorites from any genre, and if you love vampires and bloody horror, you NEED to give Daybreakers a try, because it’s worth the time.

Rating: 7/10

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