Vampire Majority : Blood is the Commodity

City Pulse | January 4, 2010
Vampire Majority

Blood is the Commodity

Daybreakers (555 words)

By Cole Smithey

Sibling Australian filmmakers Michael and Peter Spierig ("Undead" - 2003) flip Hollywood's teen-friendly vampire trend on its head with a gory sci-fi world run by a majority population of bloodsuckers. In 2019 vampires outnumber humans, and blood supplies are running out. Sam Neil's sharp-toothed corporate villain Charles Bromley runs a monopoly that harvests blood from nude human bodies connected chockablock to a vast blood milking system. Yum. Hematologist vampire Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is working on a vampire cure that Bromley and his well-armed minions want to prevent. It's not a far reach to see the filmmakers' satirical connection between blood and oil as battle breaks out between the vampires and a group of survivalist humans, led by Willem Dafoe in full bad-ass mode. The film's pacing misses a few beats and the capitalist satire never quite pops, but "Daybreakers" comes as a welcome retort to the vampire bubblegum genre that horror fans have had to tolerate lately.

Edward Dalton is a kind of conscientious objector vampire. He's working on a synthetic blood that will substitute for the actual red body juice that Bromley envisions selling at a premium price to wealthy vampire connoisseurs as supplies dwindle. The subplots involving Sam Neil's diabolical character work better than the predictable resistance group storyline that functions more as an impetus for some memorable chases scenes. With less than five percent of the human race left, the vampire population are protected by police and military forces whose primary function is to hunt down and capture every last human for harvest. The problem is that Edward's synthetic blood isn't ready for prime time, as is proven in one of the film's more spectacularly gory scenes. Still, Edward's connection to the underworld of human freedom fighters brings him closer to delivering an actual cure to the problem of blood-fueled immortality. The satire may not be on a par with a great film like "Starship Troopers," but there's enough social construct to extrapolate on how the film's vampire logic reflects on a world owned and operated by the World Bank as it runs out of resources.

High-concept horror is a rarity. That "Daybreakers" is being dumped into the January doldrums bodes well for audiences looking for fast-twitch shocks and horrific bloody action. The look of the film is designed around the blue-tinted human harvesting machine prominently displayed on the poster. The potent image system becomes a visual touchstone to send your imagination reeling about the ability of a society to farm its own people, and what that might look like. Frightening too is what happens to vampires that don't get their daily doses of blood; they transmogrify into pale winged bat-like monsters called Subsiders whose quick movements spell trouble.

The film's greatest achievement could be that it keeps Generation X poster boy Ethan Hawke ("Training Day") in an action setting where his modulated style gets more traction than two Nicolas Cages put together. "Daybreakers" may be nothing more than a moody guilty pleasure drawn of exploding bodies in a hermetic atmosphere of shiny surfaces. But when vampires drink blood from glasses and mugs you know you're on equal footing with Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. "The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield."

Rated R. 98 mins. (B-) (Three Stars)

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