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Daybreakers

a film by Michael & Peter Spierig

Daybreakers, for what it's worth, is a valiant attempt at remaking Blade Runner as a vampire flick. Granted, the story may be different, but the basic philosophy of what gives a person their humanity remains the same. One could also reasonably say that Daybreakers is a valiant attempt at remaking The Matrix as a vampire movie, or for that matter, 28 Days Later as well. Whatever the case may be (it is probably all three actually) what the German-born directing team of the Spierig Brothers try to do in and/or with Daybreakers is put a unique twist onto and old story - valiantly so.

The premise, set in 2019, where almost every human has been transformed into a vampire and those few humans left are harvested for their blood, is a grand twist on the zombie ideal that has permeated the B-movie ever since George A. Romero unleashed his undead on the public back in 1968. Brought into the 21st century light (or should that be darkness, considering?) of the pop culture phenomenon of the vampire - always a mythic, romantic creature of sorts, but now a true blood superstar of stage and screen - Daybreakers turns the tables (much as the quite insipid Twilight franchise has done) on the good/bad ethos of the blood sucking legend. Of course, Daybreakers is made for a more mature audience (and no, those middle-aged housewives dressed in their homemade Team Edward sweatshirts should not be counted as mature) and tries to take these thematic ideas to a whole other level. Unfortunately, as already more than alluded to in my opening salvo, Daybreakers, though full of interesting moments of both visual aplomb and philosophical set-ups, never quite reaches that apex of psychological mythos it so desperately desires to attain.

The Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter) whose only previous feature credit is The Undead, about a meteorite that changes most everybody into zombies (I am not the only one who senses a trend here, right?), have created a very aptly moody period piece of sorts. Appropriately dystopian in its appearance and often bathed in an undead fluorescent light (the idea on how a vampire-infested world would look takes on a sickly, Aldous Huxley-influenced dread) Daybreakers is nonetheless a failure at what it is trying to do. The film stars Ethan Hawke as a vampire with a distaste for blood (so much so that he takes up with a band of human survivalists bent on taking down the corrupt vampire hierarchy and reasserting humanity back into the equation) and Willem Dafoe as the human rebel leader (in a great job of casting, the somewhat undead looking Dafoe is the human hero here). Both actors do a fine job - as does Sam Neill as the steely-eyed top dog of the aforementioned vampire hierarchy - but when all is said and done, the film doesn't quite make it. It surely comes close (the premise alone is worth kudos for its unique twist on an old standard) but alas, no cigar. [01/21/10]

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