Review: Daybreakers

Daybreakers isn’t a wonderful movie, but I enjoyed it and I give the writers credit for bringing something new to vampire mythos. It’s also nice to see scary vampires coming back, with the viciousness and bloodthirst. The way they degenerate into the almost Nosferatu type with an absence of blood is a fun twist, and the occasional exploding body is a nice bonus.

Spoiler warnings from here out.

All in all, the movie felt to me like the writers had a series in mind, something to spread out across two or three flicks,b ut the financiers were only willing to give them one flick. The action feels very condensed, with events that could easily kill a half hour or so playing out in the span of one scene. There are characters who are introduced but get very little screen time, characters who change switch personalities on a dime, and the ending is left open enough it could easily bring a sequel.

The most blatant example of this is Bromley’s (Sam Neill) daughter. We get a quick explanation that they’ve become estranged because she was scared when he turned into a vampire, and she’s later captured by the vampire soldiers who hunt humans. He forcibly turns her, she goes feral, and he leaves her to be executed with the rest of the blood-crazed vampires they call subsiders. It seems like her storyline is supposed to demonstrate how bad a guy Bromley is, but it plays out so quickly we really don’t feel for her.

Part of the action takes place at a senator’s place, and this senator helps the humans stay hidden from the vampires. However, we get none of his motivation or background, he’s little more than a convenience. When he dies, it’s little more than an afterthought on either side. His work to get the humans set up and keep them human, not to mention his conflict against the other senators and/or Bromley’s company, could easily have played out over the course of the film.

Same goes for Edward Dalton’s (Ethan Hawke) brother. The two of them play opposite sides, with Dalton trying to find a blood substitute to spare humans and his brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman), dedicated to hunting down all the humans so they don’t run out of blood. There’s no other explanation for it than Frankie’s claim that he’s “good at it,” and when he’s cured at the end, he simply changes his attitude and moves on. No conflict, no (demonstrated) growth or change, just a flipped switch in his head.

There’s more, but you get the idea. Again, it just strikes me they had a lot more material than they needed, possibly from squeezing two longer scripts (or perhaps a longer novel) down to about 90 minutes. They could have trimmed some of this without it making much difference, and given us a little more detail for what’s left.

Question is, would it have improved the movie? Hard to say. I did enjoy it, but I didn’t walk out excited about it, or even looking forward to the telegraphed sequel. The whole cure thing is a bit iffy, but it makes sense in the context of this particular flick and at least it’s something different.

On the plus side, there’s some good action, and the viciousness of the vampires is a lot of fun. There’s plenty of blood for fans of same, and the writers (Michael & Peter Spierig, also the directors) give us a very stylish flick that touches on all the standard vampire tropes without resorting to cheese.

If you’re a horror fan, especially a vampire fan, give it a shot. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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