Fans of the vampire genre are forced to sift through a lot of bad films to find the good ones – Daybreakers is one of those gold nuggets in the sand.

Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is the head hematologist at Bromley Marks, a multinational corporation seeking to develop a blood substitute. The majority of the world’s population has been turned into vampires, which greatly decreases their food supply causing hideous mutations and increasing mayhem. The few remaining reminders of humanity are attempting to ban together and save their nearly extinct species. Their cause is now driven by one thing – they hold the key to a cure.

The dynamics of the relationships between various characters is one of the more interesting elements of the film. Dalton abhors killing humans to survive, which he hopes the creation of a blood substitute will eliminate the need for. On the other hand, his brother is a member of the government army that hunts humans to replenish the food supply. The head of Bromley Marks’ daughter is a resistant human in hiding. And the entire vampire population is slowly turning into less recognizable monsters.

The social commentary of a population starving to death is obvious. Furthermore, the ability of the more affluent to sustain their food sources more readily is also present. However, all of this is simply the setting for the story rather than the focus. As the directors Michael and Peter Spierig said, it’s first about creating a fun movie watching experience.

The vampire mythology is a mixed bag in this film. They don’t have reflections, they heal quickly but not instantly, they require blood to survive (but it must be human to avoid mutation), they explode when staked and the sun is fatal. On the other hand, it is the narrative’s take on the last point that may be too far a stretch for some vampire fans. Also, the simplicity of the turning process is somewhat dull even though it serves to explain the world’s current predicament.

Hawke has always portrayed the tortured soul well and here there is no difference. The struggle between his new life and his old one is constantly lurking beneath the surface. Willem Dafoe plays a man that is the key to the cure for vampirism. He also has some of the best lines in the film, which he delivers with impeccable timing. Sam Neill is the head of Bromley Marks, having stayed at the top with ruthless tactics and his complete abandonment of humanity. However, he drew cheers from the Midnight Madness audience when he exclaimed, “I was playing a Canadian,” as the Australian directors chose to set the film in America to make it more marketable.

Many of the images in the film, such as the blood harvesting room, the elimination of the mutated vampires or the slow-motion attack by a group of vampires, are striking. There are also fun elements, such as adding blood to your coffee at the local coffee shop or the modifications to cars so vampires don’t have to give up driving in the day.

The brothers that debuted with Undead have come a long way, managing to add to a genre that has been long abused by substandard approaches.


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