Review: DAYBREAKERS (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Review: DAYBREAKERS (2010)


Seven years after directing brothers Michael and Peter Spierig's no-budget zombie flick, UNDEAD achieved cult favorites in its native Australian country as well as stateside, they finally granted their long-awaited first major studio picture.

The result is DAYBREAKERS, and at the first glance the Spierig brothers are definitely the one to look for. Just like how they managed to inject fresh blood into the tiresome zombie genre, they did it again -- and this time it's the tiresome vampire genre.

No doubt they are able to bleed a strikingly original concept within its genre context: In the year 2019, humanity is now facing in the brink of extinction. The cause of widespread virus by a single bat has ultimately turned the majority of the human population into vampires. These vampires live in houses, drive cars and go to work as usual. But as mere mortals are getting lesser from time to time, their daily supply for fresh blood starts to decline at alarming rate and such situation have to be rectified before everything turn upside down. That is where Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), an undead hematologist working at harvesting facility Bromley Marks, tries to figure out the way of finding a blood substitute which can spells hope for the future of the vampires as well as the repopulation of the human species. Unlike others, Dalton has a soft spot for human kindness as he never results into drinking human blood at all cost.

Along comes two hunted humans, Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan) and friend Elvis (Willem Dafoe), whom they later make acquaintances with Dalton. Dalton agrees to join them for the human resistance and together, they cooperates each other to come up the ultimate cure for the vampires.

However, Dalton's boss, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) is strictly all business as he determined to seek world domination for all vampires and wants to put an end against the humankind once and for all.

It's certainly an ambitious story to be told here, and it's especially evident during the film's first 30 minutes. The film opens with an intriguing scene of a little girl writing a suicide note discussing her eternal childhood and how she despise of living her life as an immortal being. She walks outside her home as the sun is about to rise and waits for death to take her. The strikingly morbid opening scene is then followed by a mesmerizing title sequence that just perfectly atmospheric. Subsequent scenes are displayed with genuine quality as directors Michael and Peter Spierig reflect today's hectic society we live in with a matter-of-fact depiction of what the planet might have been under extreme situations. Such intimate details like blood are used as coffee creamer, underground walkways used during the daytime, the nonstop smoking of virtually all the vampires, the notable Uncle Sam sign hanging in the subway urging everyone to hunt humans, are competently realized.

And given its modest budget, the Spierig brothers still manages to come up a vampire film filled with terrific make-up effects and exciting action sequence. Such example is the first set-piece involving Edward and his younger cadet brother Frankie (Michael Dorman) are suddenly attacked at home by a malnourished vampire creature gone mad.

With a potential premise like this, the film is well on its way for becoming a genre-defining classic. Too bad that is hardly the case. Once the film progresses further, everything goes downhill with too much leisurely exposition and subsequent cliched scenarios that grows tiresome from time to time. It doesn't help either when the brisk pace quickly reduced into a series of agonizingly slow-moving crawl. Dialogues are terribly stilted, and not even the inspired casting of Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe can do much to sustain the interest.

Although the film manages to redeem itself with a gore-drenched finale, it's too bad the sheer excitement is just too late and too little. The film simply echoes the kind that possesses terrific idea but bad execution with no sustainable quality. Perhaps it's the money factor that couldn't drive the Spierig brothers' original vision to go further. This is one huge, missed opportunity.

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