Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Isabel Lucas, Sam Neill
Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
In a cinema vampire landscape populated by brooding teenagers who sparkle, the question beckons … where have all the fierce and frightening vampires gone? I’m talking the ugly and mean kind like Nosferatu, Salem’s Lot, and even From Dusk Till Dawn were sporting! Sadly, over the last several years they have been nowhere to be seen. That’s why when news broke that the visionary directing team behind the cult zombie hit Undead, the Spierig brothers, were putting out a new fang flick with an R rating that wasn’t afraid to show the true horrific side of bloodsuckers, we were pretty stoked. Yep, Daybreakers pretty much gets it all right, but before we get into that, let’s take a quick look at the plot.
It has finally happened. The world as we once knew it is now over. Vampires are now at the top of the food chain, and humans? Well, humans are now akin to cattle and are kept in cold storage to be slowly bled as the main food source for the world’s population of night creatures. There’s only one real problem … the blood supply is quickly drying up, and if the vamps in charge cannot come up with an adequate substitute, they will slowly turn into the misshapen evil creatures known as Subsiders.
Ethan Hawke plays Edward, a vampire hematologist who hasn’t forgotten what it means to be human. He is the main man who has been tasked with trying to come up with said substitute when life (or should we say death?) all of a sudden throws him a curve-ball. Turns out a mysterious stranger (the always good Willem Dafoe) has something new for Edward to consider — a third option if you will! He has discovered a complete and total cure for vampirism.
Together the duo try and find the correct and safe way to spread the word, but some vampires don’t want to be cured, and with the Subsiders growing in numbers daily due to the blood shortage, things are getting really dangerous really fast.
That’s the story in a nutshell, and it’s solid and imaginative stuff. Even more imaginative is the vampire world that the Spierigs have created. There are now tunnels, bridges, and walkways between building so that the sun is no longer a factor in hurting the populace during the daytime. Cars are equipped with auto safety tint. A city-wide sun up/sun down alarm rings when the fiery ball of death is set to do its thing. In fact just about everything you can think of is present and perfectly logical in order to further the existence of a vampire dominated world. The level of detail is insanely impressive, and without question that’s the main thing that sells this flick.
Also impressive are the Subsiders. You want ugly evil vampires thrown back into the mix? Look no further than these beasties. They’re violent, deadly, and do not mess around. If only there were more of them. For my money that’s part of what brings this one down. Throughout the movie a war between the regular vamps and the Subsiders is teased but never actually comes to fruition. In fact, the entire third act of the film seems horribly rushed with plot points and character devices introduced and then quickly dispatched. It really feels as if the Spierigs ran out of time and money. Or maybe it’s a simple matter of their vision being too big for their budget. Who knows? One thing is for certain: Daybreakers is one hell of a film that falls just short of being truly great.
As always, if you’ve got the tech, Blu-ray is easily the way to go in terms of content, picture, and sound quality. Its DVD cousin holds its own, but you can’t help but feel that the medium’s days are numbered. In 1080p the visual presentation, with the exception of a few sequences that look a bit soft, is stunning; and the soundtrack serves to do nothing but enhance the experience. Truly good stuff.
In terms of supplemental material the Blu-ray easily outshines the DVD if only because of the inclusion of the just over two hours long version of the documentary Making-of Daybreakers. Sadly the DVD is home to the abbreviated version of this rather extensive look at the making-of the film so if you want the whole enchilada, there’s only one way to go – shell out the extra dollars and make the high definition jump. Other Blu-ray exclusives are picture-in-picture storyboards and animatics, a poster gallery, a highly entertaining short film from the Spierigs called “The Big Picture”, and of course a standard definition digital copy for your portable players.
Both packages share the fantastic audio commentary with the directors, Michael and Peter Spierig, and special effects creator Steve Boyle and the theatrical trailer. All in all it is a pretty damned good haul.
If Daybreakers does anything at all, it without question lays a tremendously solid bit of groundwork for future sequels. Great effects, great performances, and tons of blood make this the vampire flick most horror fans have been craving even if it does fall a little bit short of the finish line. Definitely worth your time and attention!
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5