Saturday, January 9, 2010

Review: 'Daybreakers' [C-]

By Chase Kahn

For the first few moments of Michael and Peter Spierig's Daybreakers, with its creepy, noirish evocation of a world now overrun with vampires - their auburn-tinted eyes flaring up like cigarettes in the blue-steeled night - it appears that the German-born writers/directors/brothers have injected much needed life into this popular-as-ever genre of immortal blood-suckers.

Just five percent of the human population remains, which means more fanged-mouths than precious mortal blood, and the vampire race on the verge of devolving into nasty, winged bottom-feeders called "subsiders," an inconvenient truth as a result of blood-depravity.

Enter Edward Dalton, a hematologist played by Ethan Hawke who refuses to drink real, natural blood as a side-effect of human sympathy. He's approached by a minority resistance fighter (Claudia Karvan) who spots his softness and introduces him to a big-eyed, goateed Willem Dafoe who claims he has a cure for immortality, although we get the idea that he's more interested in cars than in humanity.

And thus, after the initial set-up, with blood-lust on the mind, Daybreakers dissolves into a barrage of exploding parts and vampire hokum - deviating sharply from implausible action/horror to excessive splatter-comedy. (I couldn't tell if a wide-angle slow-motion shot of soldiers indulging in jugular evisceration was meant to be fawned over or laughed at). And Willem Dafoe's Lionel "Elvis" Cormac, who spews one-liners ripped from the Stephen Sommers playbook, doesn't help matters.

Nor does the script's phony revisionist mythology, with its cure for immortality coming off as a stretch even in this world that the Spierig's have created, where drivers can maneuver cars across dilapidated bridges through the viewpoints of bullet holes and vampires own stainless-steel cutlery sets (to cut what, exactly?).
By the time it reaches its bloody, stake-to-the-heart conclusion, combustion wins out over more interesting questions of immortality vs. humanity. In the end, Daybreakers, for all of its promises of genre re-imagining, is never interested in more than a cheap thrill - it just comes off as redundant and woefully inept.

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