Who’s In It: Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe, Michael Dorman, Claudia Karvan, Isabel Lucas
The Basics: In the year 2019, vampires will rule the world thanks to an epidemic that transforms most of the world into pointy-toothed bloodsuckers sometime around 2009. (Which means… it’s already begun! Mwaahaahaa!) Being a vampire in this blue-and-gray-hued future is pretty awesome, even though life is just as mundane as it is now – that is, until a food shortage (read: no more tasty humans) threatens the existence of the entire undead race. Enter Ethan Hawke as a tortured vampire scientist who teams up with a band of human survivors led by a hot brunette (Claudia Karvan) and wacky Willem Dafoe to seek a cure for vampirism and save the human race. Meanwhile, Sam Neill camps it up in the background as a fat cat corporate vampire who doesn’t give a crap that starvation is devolving all of society into homeless mutant bat-people.
What’s The Deal: As much as directing duo Peter and Michael Spierig would like it to be, Daybreakers is not a thinking person’s vampire movie. (You may find this shocking, despite the fact that it’s being released in the dumping grounds of January.) Daybreakers is, however, a rollicking futuristic vampire tale full of loud shrieks and jump scares, grotesque creatures and projectile vomiting, high-tech gunfights, and plenty of crimson-colored Karo syrup exploding all over the place. Story and acting are not the main attractions here, though Ethan Hawke struggles valiantly to talk in a consistent, sensitive-man rasp while wearing a pair of cumbersome faux fangs, a cheesy prop that gets the better of many of his co-stars. That leaves the key element of seeing s*** go down in inventive ways, which Daybreakers does have in spades (see below).
Vampirism, A Lifestyle Choice: The sci-fi science in Daybreakers doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (the origins of the vampire epidemic are attributed to a bat, and even the people in the movie don’t understand how it happened), but none of that making-sense stuff matters here. Vampirism is forced on some and chosen by others, less a medical condition than a lifestyle choice. But the film’s fleeting meditations on humanity, compassion, and choice are quickly forgotten once Ethan Hawke throws together some dubious makeshift experiments while hiding in a bed-and-breakfast and magically figures out how to cure his lust for blood in the most nonsensical way imaginable.
Who’s Having The Most Fun: Sam Neill, who revels in his role as a greedy capitalist profiteer by chewing up every inch of the scenery in his chalky makeup and silly fangs. Willem Dafoe, as an ex-vampire (he converted back to humanity, you see) nicknamed “Elvis” who has a thing for fast cars, crossbows, and being gleefully eccentric as the Whistler to Ethan Hawke’s Blade. Even Isabel Lucas, the hot robot chick from Transformers 2, shows up to add “Reluctant Vampire Girl” to her acting résumé showing more signs of life she did in that action blockbuster.
I Wasn’t Going To Bring Up Twilight, But…: Ethan Hawke’s morally conflicted vampire is named Edward, doesn’t drink human blood on principle, and totally falls for a human brunette. If that ain’t coincidence, I don’t know what is.
The Pièce de Résistance: An operatic sequence shot in slow-motion that plays like the blood-spraying vampire equivalent to the Barf-a-Rama scene in Stand By Me. It’s like the Guernica of vampires.