It seems appropriate to return to my neglected blog with a review of Daybreakers, the new Ethan Hawke vampire movie. Daybreakers is set in 2019. Because of some “outbreak” 10 years ago, almost all humans have been turned into vampires and life now runs from sundown to sunrise, as opposed to the other way around. Ethan Hawke is Edward, a hematologist employed by a pharmaceutical company and working on developing a synthetic blood substitute. His research is a race against time. Due to improper research management, only 5% of the human population remains and that poses a big problem for the vampires. Without more humans, they will go through the remaining blood supply in one month. To make matters worse, researchers in another group have done experiments on the long term effects on human blood deprivation. They discover that vampires who do not consume human blood devolve into horrific, savage creatures who only follow the impulse to find and consume blood. These creatures are called “sub species.” Thus, Bromley Marks, the pharmaceutical company, has a big problem. Not only will the population starve without blood, but they will also turn into grotesque monsters. The plot unfolds from there.
I must say, I think this movie has the most unvampiric vampires I’ve ever seen. They are not particularly beautiful and they don’t even seem to be supernaturally strong. In fact, it is the tough remainder of human kind that ends up sneaking up on the vampires and catching them unawares. But I think this is done somewhat deliberately. In a world in which the dominate specifies are vampires, to be a vampire is no longer unique. It is quite commonplace, as evidenced by the ads for fang whiting toothpaste, the coffee bars that serve 20% human blood, and a myriad of other mundane commonplaces that were formally the purvey of humans.
I had been pretty entranced by the previews for Daybreakers and so I was quite disappointed by the movie. The first third was great but over the course of the story, the film slowly devolved into pure camp and gratuitous violence. Some camp elements were funny—Willem Dafoe as a “born again” (literally) human is great and he drives a really sweet black thunderbird. But other elements seem like they can’t decide if they want to be camp or serious. I’m sorry, but I do not need to see a severed head fly across the screen in slow motion.
I guess what most disappoints me is that the movie could have been so much more. For example, I thought it was fascinating that the nighttime world of the vampires had a 1940s aesthetic whereas the human’s world remained current to right now. So what was it about vampire culture that evolved to express itself culturally in the style of the 40s? The movie also begins with the suicide of a girl who looks to be about 10 years old, but has really been alive for about 20. She can no longer live in perpetual prematurity and waits outside as the sun rises. Later that evening, Edward sees a gang of these elementary school kids hanging out on the corner. They smoke, drink, and dress entirely to old for how they look. But Edward knows that the age of these kids is closer to their actions rather than their appearance. However, after introducing this theme, the movie abandons it entirely.
I think that I was so disappointed because it seems like it’s been such a long time since there has been a really GOOD vampire movie. I was hoping that this would be the one. I think it’s worth seeing but you can’t expect too much from it.