Well now I can breathe a sigh of relief. There are people out there in the world of film who still understand the concept of vampires and know how to create an original yet also incredibly entertaining genre movie that STAYS TRUE TO THE CONCEPT they're working with. I can't even begin to describe how satisfying it was to see the sun come up and a vampire burn alive because of it, and that was just in the first 5 minutes. If the character had sparkled I would have walked out of the theater, and there's something to be said for respecting decades worth of your peer's work. Sure every author creates their own interpretation of the vampire myth, and even though people like Anne Rice get a lot of credit for the state of vampire legend prior to Twilight (I'd like to give a shout out to whoever coined the phrase Twi-hards, by the way), a new rash of films and television shows have recently started to bend the rules of the long dormant cultural icons.
Combining the vampi re aesthetic with a 28 Days Later inspired outbreak backstory, the Spierig Brothers (whose first feature Undead was hailed as a promise of greater things to come) have brought us a vision of the future of the vampire phenomenon, the logical continuation of a concept in which the whole world becomes infected, the humans are in the minority (considering they are capable of dying from natural causes) and are being farmed for blood. The only problem is that the blood supply is running out, and Ethan Hawke is a scientist in search of an acceptable substitute. What happens next, is one hell of a wild ride, and if there's anything general that can be said about the film as a whole, it's that it occasionally spends too much time having fun, and too little time developing the story.
Where the film truly shines is in its visual style. Sprinkle in a blue tinged color palette for the night photography t reminiscent of Underworld, add Willem Dafoe to breathe life into the human res istance and deliver all kinds of terrific one-liners, and top it all off with some gnarly creature effects and more blood splattering kills than the average war film, and now you're starting to get the sense of what kinds of notes Daybreakers manages to hit. It also has one of the more promising opening acts of the last few years, deftly establishing its tone and goals while simultaneously putting the audience on edge with a series of calculated scares and intense cinematography. It does unravel a bit after that, but the set up is everything you'd hope from this kind of movie.
Which brings us to the Achilles heel of the film, the editing. Aside from the opening act which is so full of exposition it would be hard for a studio to chop stuff out without losing important story components and is therefore the film's strongest portion, the rest of the movie suffers from its clearly targeted 90 minute runtime. Some films need an extra half an hour to breath and linger, and Da ybreakers aches from a lack of room to do so. Character jumps are more severe than they seem intended to be, and the whole last act goes by at a blistering pace, making leaps in logic and flashing forward in its own chronology to the point that the audience is left questioning what they just missed. The final confrontation is sorely lacking in set-up, not because there wasn't any that got shot, but because I can see the studio note floating in the middle of the screen "Get To The End Faster." I'd be very interested in seeing the work in its entirety, and not unlike Kurt Wimmer's recent stylized vampire flick Ultraviolet, there may be a certain amount of the producers and the studio not really getting what it is they have, trying to force the film into a mold that really doesn't apply.
What I want you to take away from this review is that Daybreakers is a ton of fun. It's a blast, exactly the kind of entertainment you need in the studio "dump months" of January and Febr uary, and though it won't stay with you very long after you see it, the experience is entirely enjoyable, something the depressed Oscar season tends to forget about. Grab some popcorn, take a seat, and strap yourself in. If I had to pick Six Flags or Daybreakers, the vampires would get my vote in this round... though I'm so down to get on a roller coaster to avoid Twilight The Third in June.
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