Daybreakers (2009)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #198

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: 11 September 2009 (TIFF), 8 January 2010 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Vampire/Sci-Fi
Country of Origin: Australia/United States
Budget: $20,000,000
Box Office: $51,416,464
Running time: 98 minutes
Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Producers: Chris Brown, Sean Furst, Bryan Furst
Screenplay: Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig
Special Effects: Kym Sainsbury, Clint Ingram, Steven Boyle
Visual Effects: James Rogers, Rangi Sutton
Cinematography: Ben Nott
Score: Christopher Gordon
Editor: Matt Villa
Studios: Lionsgate, Screen Australia, Pictures in Paradise, Film Finance Corporation Australia, Pacific Film & Television Commission, Furst Films
Distributor: Lionsgate
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Willem Defoe, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Sam Neill, Vince Colosimo, Isabel Lucas, Christopher Kirby, Harriet Minto-Day, Jay Laga’aia, Damien Garvey, Carl Rush, Paul Sonkkila, Vince Colosimo, Todd Levi Mungo McKay, Emma Randall, Ellie Landon, Charlotte Wilson

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Suggested Audio Candy

Placebo “Running Up That Hill”

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I was always a bit of a wuss when it came to the sight of blood. I watched numerous gory horror flicks growing up and this posed no problem but the moment some real-life operation popped up on the TV I’d be reduced to a wincing imbecile. However, I was one of those kids who, should my knee become grazed, would think nothing of peeling off any scab tissue and taking a sip. Does that make me one of life’s wrong ‘uns? Y’all may well be in uproar but many of you will know, deep down, that you did the self-same thing.

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Blood is something of an acquired taste but I’m actually rather partial to the tang. Recently, I dug a trench in my noggin when walking full speed into the business corner of a garage door and, after snapping a quick selfie of the resulting stream drizzling down my face, the first thing I did was to poke out my tongue in the hope of claiming a few drops of the red sauce. I’m not a vampire, at least I wasn’t last time I checked, but can empathize with their breed. It’s all a bit moreish.

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The Spierig Brothers Michael and Peter rose from obscurity with 2003’s well received Undead and their modest success there gave them the clout to take their show on the road. Daybreakers has a luxurious $20m budget and they managed to enlist the skills of Ethan Hawke, Willem Defoe and Sam Neill for their dystopian vampire movie, the likes of which enjoyed a reasonably prosperous theatrical run.

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Set ten years from now, almost the entire population have become night crawlers, the demands of which have led to a worldwide shortage of cruor. Less than 5% of the human population remain and a large number of them are comatose and suspended in a holding tank at Bromley Marks Corporation, with the intention of farming for those last few precious drops of crimson. Meanwhile, folk are growing restless and vagrants wear signage denoting “Hungry. Will work for blood.”

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The reticent Edward (Hawke) is chief Hematologist at the global corporation and is aware of dwindling resources so has been tasked with finding a suitable synthetic substitute, before all hell breaks loose. He is a vampire in denial, refusing to drink human blood and, instead, chain smokes to deal with the cravings. He is fully aware that CEO Charles (Neill) is more concerned with investors pulling out than with preserving the species and thus, when a road accident introduces him to a small band of mortal rebels, he jumps at the chance of switching allegiances.

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The band of merry men and women are led by Lionel (the ever wonderful Willem Defoe) and Audrey (Claudia Karvan) with whom Edward forges an instant connection, and they harbor a secret which could change the stakes considerably, no pun intended. A cure for vampirism sounds like a pretty fucking great idea on paper but isn’t likely to appease the money-ravenous Bromley who has been seduced by the allure of the green stuff and has the red stuff on tap, at any rate.

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To add a further spanner in the works, normal folk are resorting to drinking their own resources in an attempt at lessening the yearning and this acts as crystal meth, transforming them swiftly into a bat-winged subspecies, nicknamed Subsiders, who lurch around the sewers frantically searching for donors. To top things off, Edward’s hot-headed brother Frankie (Michael Dorman) is disgusted with his refusal to conform and trails him incessantly, looking to serve his country over any superfluous family ties.

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The Spierig Brothers’ film is slickly shot and fairly grand in scale. In addition, the performances, whilst not all up to par, are far better than is customary and Ethan Hawke is never less than excellent despite practically phoning in his turn. Sam Neill has become the dude we love to hate and reminds us that Event Horizon was no fluke by excelling as the unscrupulous corporal type. We are given glimpse of his last few strands of humanity as he captures his own daughter, herself having never been turned, but the allure of the fast buck is alas too burly for him to ignore.

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Those searching for social commentary will find much to test the grey matter here. Vampirism aside, it explores progress and the costs to our own dissipating natural resources in the interest of greasing mankind’s technological gears. However, this is not The Spierigs’ primary focus as they clearly just want to make a decent vampire flick and, on this count, do rather a tidy job. Ultimately, Daybreakers is the ideal antitoxin to the Twilight series and I’d take this Edward over Mr Cullen any day of the year.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Grue is splashed around liberally and some of the kills are gloriously gory, particularly at the tail-end. Heads and appendages are plucked from their sockets like turnips from the patch and the red sauce sprays around with far too much regularity for the famished night crawlers to cope with. The image which stuck with me most is of said succubi as they lick the last remaining remnants clean from every surface.

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Richard Charles Stevens

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