Movie review: Daybreakers. When vampires run out of humans.
Daybreakers is a 2010 movie that delves into a theme that is often hinted at but hardly ever explored in vampire movies, namely what happens if the undead bloodsuckers go through the world’s entire supply of human.
A mere ten years after an epidemic – described in fairly vauge terms – has turned the vast majority of humans into vampires vampiric civilization finds itself grappling with hunger, starvation and complete destruction (one could say they’re past peak blood). Attempts to develop a blood substitute have failed. Starving vampires are turning into deformed, violent cannibalistic creatures. Meanwhile, a smattering of human survivors, hiding out in a winery that is of no interest to the undead, have found a cure for vampirism. While trying to escape the police during a night time search for other humans they crash into a vampire scientist (played by Ethan Hawke) who detests being a vampire and longs for ways to restore human freedom and dignity. Unfortunately for him, his brother is vampire tribalist, so to speak, who loves being a vampire and has no use for reproachment with the people who spawned. As desperation sets in the cycle of violence speeds up and turns into a non-stop orgy of blood-soaked feeding.
Daybreakers is a well-crafted movie that serves up enough visual cues and gags to keep viewers entertained without overloading them. A fairly brisk pace also keeps viewers from spending too much time pondering the finer details of the largely post-human world. The vampire-run city in which the most of the action takes place is sort of a cross between Minneapolis and Japan (or maybe Germany, given how whites were apparently particulalry apt to turn vampires when the epidemic struck. While Minneapolis has an intricate system of tunnels and walkways to shield inhabitants from the harsh winters, Daybreakers’ city has a similar solution to allow movement during daytime, when the sun poses a lethal threat to the daybroken. But mostly the vampires simply stay at home during the day and go to work after sunset.
Human society more or less rotates around the securing the resources necessary to ensure reproduction. The vampires in Daybreakers are immortal and seem to have their sex drive entirely replaced by a bloodlust that is satisfied by rather sterile consumption of packaged blood. The mechanism for mortality is apparently that people stop ageing once they become vampires (thus Hawke’s character is celebrating his ninth 35th birthday). Judging from the newscasts that are sprinkled into the storyline the vampires more or less maintain the same governmental structures they inhabited as humans (they seemingly also favor the same kind of innane political gabfest shows).
It is tempting to read all kinds oallegories and metaphors and meanings into a movie like Daybreakers but given that that its creators are two 30-something brothers who’ve done pretty much nothing but movies their entire life it is probably a waste of time to do so. Michael and Peter Spierig, I think it fair to say, make movies about movies and that’s about it. Their stated interest in making sequels or a TV show based on Daybreakers can best be treated as a joke.
Daybreakers fared undeservedly poorly at the box office, probably because the vampires in the movie possess little of the powers typically ascribed to them in movies and literature. The only thing they seem to have going for themselves is immortality. Eternal life without sex isn’t the most compelling fantasy.