One can’t help but feel slightly saddened when watching a movie that had all the potential to be an interesting picture, yet falls short in every aspect. Daybreakers was one of those films that looked to have a unique take on a tired genre; characters that you’d remember and action scenes that you’d want to see again and again. Instead, we’re left with jumpy edits, a story that never quite develops, and characters that could have been so much more with some – any – development.
That’s not to say Daybreakers is an entirely bad movie. In order to give the feel that the film could break out as a rare gem there has to be something there to work with, and there is, as the writers seemed to be on a deeper path with a story about humanity intertwined with vampires, yet fell off the track along the way. There are hints of greatness, yet they’re hindered by clichéd moments and dismal character development that leaves the audience not really caring about anyone in the film, let alone the messages that miss the mark along the way.
The film begins in the year 2019, the world already consumed by a virus that has turned almost everyone into vampires, leaving the world empty, yet bright during the day, and dark, yet full of life (or death depending how you look at it) at night. Ethan Hawke stars as Edward Dalton, a chief hematologist and human-rights sympathizer, who works at the world’s largest blood supplying clinic. It’s kind of like a blood bank, where people deposit humans and they’re kept alive and farmed for blood not only to feed the nation of vampires, but in order to find a blood substitute.
This is the main plot of the movie, as only five percent of the human population is left living – many in seclusion. With the human supply running out, vampires are starving, with the lower class feeling the effects first and mutating into a far more dangerous, less humane type of vampire due to resorting to cannibalism in order to survive. The groundwork is laid for an interesting subplot about the poor being left to rot while the rich, and even middle-class, acknowledge that it’s what has to happen in order for survival; yet with the rest of the story being so erratic it makes everything feel incomplete, and thus, wasted.
Early on Edward meets up with a small group of humans, lead by Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormack (Willem Dafoe), who needs his help replicating a cure they’ve found to reverse vampirism once and for all. Interesting ideas flow freely, yet with everything feeling so rushed they never get the time to develop, or seem real. These scenes once again allow the opportunity for a deeper character development, yet it’s cut short and the humans just feel like fodder for the vampires hunting them.
While none of the acting is bad, the lack of things to work with hinder everyone across the board. Hawke brings his A-game, which is commendable, and gives you the feeling that he felt this project was going to be so much more as well while he was filming it. Dafoe especially feels wasted here, as he has the chops to make a character like this work, yet is never really given the chance.
One who hasn’t been mentioned yet is the main villain of this feature, Sam Neill, who plays the president of the blood farming institute, Charles Bromley. Bromley is an intriguing character, and anyone who has seen Event Horizon knows Neill can play the creepy card quite well. He does well with what he has, and almost has the most development out of any character, yet that feeling that he could have been a bad guy to remember lingers, and makes you shake your head at yet another missed opportunity.
As I said before, Daybreakers isn’t a bad movie; it’s just an incredibly wasted opportunity. All the layout was there for a new take on a classic species, with moral messages planted along the way. In the end, Daybreakers is just another vampire action flick, which some will no doubt enjoy, as the blood, gore and fangs are abundant – it just could have been so much more.
Director: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig Notable Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill Writers: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.