The set-up of Daybreakers is this: ten years ago, humans were infected with vampirism. Now the vast majority of Earth’s population consists of vampires, and the food supply, obviously, is dwindling quickly. Starvation, in vampires, causes regression to a Nosferatu-like state, which is a) gross and b) not societally sustainable. In cities awake only at night, above networks of tunnels (Subwalks), there is a desperate race for a viable blood substitute.

Enter our hero, Ed (Ethan Hawke), a hematologist vampire working on this project. His evil boss (Sam Neill, whose character’s name I forget because it’s not Vassily Borodin) is concerned with profits, either from his blood farms or from the substitute, emphatically not caring which. Ed’s brother (some young Kiwi) is a weirdo soldier in the Vampire Army, and there is some sibling tension.

But Ed is not evil. Ed refuses to drink human blood, Ed helps humans escape from the Vampire Police, Ed really wants to save humans generally. Ed does not, you will be shocked to learn, have sensitive facial hair. Anyhow, he meets some human resistance fighters, Willem Dafoe drives American muscle cars, there’s an attractive lady (Claudia Karvan as Audrey) and an attractive vineyard, yadda yadda yadda fight the powercakes.

An unsubtle critique of capitalism and warning about possible food crises, this movie is nonetheless not terrible. At least two unexpected things happened, and the world-building is well executed. Willem Dafoe is appropriately crazy and Sam Neill is delightfully Mephistophelean. The only real problem I have is the body horror. Sure, you need some, but this…is a bit much, especially in an otherwise suited, fedora’d, stylish world. Which I’m sure is the point, but I still don’t have to like it.

Stray observations:

  • The vampires mostly wear hats. Like, the kind of hats we stopped wearing when JFK did. I don’t know why, because the hats don’t protect them enough from the sun and are worn underground. Style, I guess.
  • Audrey is capable and no-nonsense, not having to be rescued over-much. In fact, she begins by shooting Ed. Could be worse.
  • There is a predictable but still deeply unpleasant rape-analogue scene. It is, in fairness, largely essential to the plot.
  • Everyone in this movie except for Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe is a Kiwi or an Australian. Nonetheless the action occurs in the US, because, sigh, we are the capitalistic and militaristic goons who would create this world. I would like to see the same premise in Australia or New Zealand, mostly, I admit, for the laughs.

Director: The Spierig Brothers
Rating: R
Length: 98 min.
Score: 2/5. Clever, but too gross.

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