Movie News & Reviews

'Daybreakers': Vampire-movie genre is bleeding out

In the Daybreakers future, the vampires have it all worked out.

No longer just nocturnal, they now run the show, day and night.

They're not "cursed." Not in their own eyes, anyway. With immortality and designer clothes, there isn't a True Blood Louisiana redneck vampire to be found.

Can't drive during the day? Fit cars with blackout windows and drive via video screen.

Need blood? It's farmed in gigantic dairy-style processing facilities where the few surviving humans are captured, then sucked dry.

But that blood supply is about to run out. For the blood baron (Sam Neill), that's a cause for concern. He has his best man on it, hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke, pale and fanged). Edward will find a blood substitute, something they can bottle like pinot noir, something red and yummy that Vampire Planet can spritz into its morning espresso. Something that will keep all the vampires from devolving into gnarly, uncivilized wraiths, preying on one another, and that will ease Edward's anti-blood-sucking conscience.

Daybreakers is a stylish but unavoidably silly sci-fi vampire thriller shot in that Matrix/Gattaca futurescape of Australia. The German co-directors, brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, dazzle us with the inventiveness of this post- human world where Uncle Sam has fangs ("Capture Humans!" the posters read) and that line at the coffee bar could turn deadly, and not just because these blood- suckers need their caffeine.

Then Edward stumbles into the human underground (Willem Dafoe, with a crossbow, and Claudia Karvan), survivors holding out against extinction. Whatever the movie was, it becomes a too-conventional hunters/hunted, "rebels" tale, with Hawke stuck listening to human lines like these:

"We've been searching for vampires we can trust." "My friends call me Elvis!"

The best scenes are between Hawke and Neill, who wears a mean pair of fangs and makes their moments together sort of a Job Interview With the Vampire. Neill almost makes the environmental parable at play here (greedy capitalist using up resources) work.

But those moments are lost once the standard-issue explode-in-sunlight/stake-through-the-heart business revs up. Daybreakers reminds us that from Twilight to Underworld, True Blood to The Vampire Diaries, this is one genre where supply has utterly overwhelmed demand.