January 14, 2010
Daybreakers begins ten years after an outbreak causes vampirism, when the world is running out of humans necessary to feed the vampire population. Gritty, dark, gory, and full of insight, Daybreakers left me bouncing between perceptive reflection and entertaining bloody revolution.
The blood shortage has stirred a need for both humans and a blood substitute. Humans are hunted and put into rooms to repopulate and be harvested for blood. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a vampire scientist working on a substitute at mega-corporation Bromley Marks and finds only catastrophic failure. Once the human supply becomes harder to find and the vampires begin to starve, their society unravels. Edward’s brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman), is a soldier tasked with finding humans on the perimeter of society and bringing them in to become food. By chance, Edward bumps into Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan), the leader of a human organization, and the path of his research changes.
Daybreakers made every part of my brain light up. At times the writer-directors Michael and Peter Spierig wrap themes around historical inferences and use allegories that require us to ask questions of ourselves. Then POW, blood squirts out in ways that seem both unrespectable and totally satisfying.
It’s hard to pin down the main theme of Daybreakers. One leaves the theater with no shortage of ideas to think about. How different does a person have to look to be no longer human? Will our greed be our own death? Are we entitled to any resource at the expense of human life? How close are we to yet another holocaust? Is it our duty to prevent or attempt to prevent all incursions into human dignity? Can we see ourselves in the faces of monsters?
There is one question that haunted me and returned me to my non-theistic ways: how much of society, of ourselves, of humanity would we be willing to cast aside in the pursuit of immortality? In modern terms: how many years are we willing to delay potentially lifesaving stem cell research for the sake of some people’s ideas of immortality because of their religion? It may not be what the Spierig Brothers were intending, but I care not.
I confess that, briefly during the movie, I became a theist. Sometime between peeking through the intentionally placed gaps in my fingers, the unabashed sanguine scenes, and exploding cavities with body-part shrapnel, I was hurled into the back of my seat, and the worlds “Oh my god” escaped my lips. One side of my mouth raised in glee while the other pushed down in reflexive disgust. It was delightful.
The root canal in the grin that is Daybreakers is the unforgivable use of dreadfully cliché music. At first I couldn’t quite place why, in scenes where the actors are pulling off the necessary emotions, I felt the overwhelming need to suck on a piece of dynamite. In a moment of hysterical brilliance my husband offered, “They spent all their money on corn syrup and red dye.” I guess when you go a bit over budget, you download the music from the royalty-free collection on iTunes.
If you love unbelievable dismemberments to display philosophical points, Daybreakers will knock your socks off. In fact, if you like any of the listed, you’ll enjoy it: vampires, bat-like creatures, corporate greed, architecture, awesome new cars, futuristic stories, bats, exploding bodies, impressive use of elevators, soldiers, chase scenes, classic cars, philosophy, introspection, and religion. Just bring an MP3 player to create your own soundtrack.