GENRE: Intellectual vampire thriller
THE PITCH: In the near future, a plague has infected the majority of the world's population, transforming them into bloodthirsty vampires. Naturally, the remaining humans become the primary food. The blood supply reaches critical levels and society starts to break down. Vampire hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) desperately seeks a substitute, but is recruited by the humans to unlock the medical mystery within human-turned-vampire-turned-human-again Elvis Cormac (Willem Dafoe), which could hold humanity's salvation.
VAMP FACTOR: These vampires are of the frou-frou variety more akin to TV's "True Blood" and "The Vampire Diaries" or the Twilight movies. They're handsome, well-groomed, and have blood-red eyes and not-so-pale skin. Their main weakness, of course, is sensitivity to sunlight (or ultraviolet radiation if you wanna be technical). If they don't consume blood, however, they morph into freakishly feral Nosferatu-looking bat creatures that feed on other vampires.
MONEY SHOTS: Dalton and Cormac throw down the gauntlet against a horde of hungry vampires while trying to deliver the cure to Dalton's former boss, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). It's like Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn at its bloodiest, but inside a New York high-rise and sublevel parking decks.
BEST LINES: "Life's a bitch, then you don't die," says Dalton to his younger brother Frankie (Michael Dorman) during a toast to celebrate Dalton's 34th birthday (again). Cormac offers a metaphor for the risk involved in delivering the cure to Bromley Marks Pharmaceutical: "... like riding bareback with a $5 whore."
BODY COUNT: Halfway through the film the count is only 15, but by the end, you'll be checking for body parts in the seat next to you.
VAMPIRES: THEY'RE JUST LIKE US! A vampire-run world isn't much different from our own. They get their news from the vampire news channel VN7; they brush their teeth with Infinite White toothpaste; and they drink coffee – only with blood instead of creamer. They're even at war: Recruitment billboards are plastered across the city with the slogan "Uncle Sam Wants You to Capture Humans: Join the Vampire Army Today – Make A Difference."
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Dafoe saves the day in style, driving a black Firebird Trans Am (with the gold firebird emblem on the hood).
YOUR BAILOUT DOLLARS AT WORK: You'd think that with the risk of spontaneous combustion, vampires wouldn't drive during daylight hours. But thanks to GMC and your tax dollars, vampires have vehicles fully equipped for daytime driving. Dalton drives a vehicle resembling a Chrysler 300 with the vampire package. Amenities include blackout window tinting with daylight sensors, 360-degree simulated viewing on windshields via rooftop cameras, and self-inflating tires. The police drive similar vehicles, but with the standard black-and-white demarcation. For fighting the War on Humanity, the Vampire Army drives camouflage Hummers, also with blackout windows and rooftop cameras.
RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES (NOT BODIES): Did I detect a hint of subtext in this film? Aside from the story of humanity's last stand, Daybreakers addresses the power of pharmaceutical companies and their influence on American politics. The film also comments on the ethics of human (i.e., animal) testing for blood substitute trials and human (i.e., animal) farming.
BOTTOM LINE: There's a lot to like about this film. Brothers Peter and Michael Spierig have crafted a stylish, grown-up addition to the recent onslaught of melodramatic vampire fare. Daybreakers has enough intelligence, action, gore and campiness to satisfy horror buffs and general moviegoers alike.
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