Ben Rothstein/ Lionsgate
Ben Rothstein/ Lionsgate
Review in a Hurry: Finally, a vampire pic with bite. The blood flows freely in this futuristic thriller, as the bloodsucking majority hunt and farm the remaining humans for delicious plasma. There's much here to feast upon, so chow down, gorehounds.
The Bigger Picture: Writer-director brothers from Down Under, Peter and Michael Spierig splattered onto the scene and screen in 2003 with the maddeningly manic and narratively messy zombie movie, Undead. This go round, vampires have inherited the earth, and it's a welcome takeover—Daybreakers demonstrates the sibs' filmmaking maturity, with well-paced scares, a sly sense of humor, and a cast with gravitas.
The year is 2019, and a mysterious plague has turned most of the world's population into vampires. And they're really hungry. Humans have become an endangered species and gone into hiding to prevent being harvested for their liquid diet.
Vampire hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is charged with developing a blood substitute, stat, to sell to the starving masses, but he's conflicted about both his vampiric condition and his service to corrupt boss Charles Bromley (Sam Neill, resurrecting his coldly evil demeanor from Omen III). So when Dalton learns of a possible "cure" for vampirism, he goes in pursuit, but his soldier brother Frankie and Bromley's goons are hot on his bat tail.
Exciting shoot-'em-up and chew-'em-up (literally) sequences follow, as Dalton teams with human survivor Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and ex-vampire outlaw Lionel "Elvis" Cormac (Willem Dafoe, whose undead oeuvre also includes Shadow of a Vampire and last year's Cirque du Freak). Also upping the ick factor are creepy-cool, maniacal mutants called "subsiders," who really deserve more screen time.
Despite a few brother-against-brother and greedy-CEO clichés, Daybreakers proves to be a stylish, satisfying horror-fest that even dabbles in social commentary and cinematic lyricism—in the bleakly beautiful opening (think Blade Runner for bloodsuckers), extermination of subsiders, and blood-drenched finale.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Of all the names available, the vampire protagonist has to be called...Edward? Seriously? And Bromley's teenage human daughter is played by Isabel Lucas. Isabel...Bella? This is the real takeover!
There's so much else to see, too—have a look in our Totally New Releases gallery!