(Judge Dredd Megazine, Rebellion)
After the accomplished Carriers at the end of last year – the one in which Star Trek’s Chris Pine was an utter bastard on a plague-emptied world – it’s heartening to see another earnest apocalypse that doesn’t involve CGI cities blowing up. Following I am Legend’s lead, the Aussie film Daybreakers predicts a near-future in which most human beings have been vampirised (fangs, blood-drinking, sunlight combustion, even the thing with mirrors). The twist is that the film’s told from the vampires’ viewpoint, and makes the sly suggestion that they aren’t inherently monstrous or demonic. Instead, they’re “human,” which is a good deal worse. Being dependent on blood, they’ve taken to farming the dwindling number of “unturned” humans in grotesque battery units, though a moment’s reflection suggests this element could have been much nastier. After all, why don’t the vamps alleviate the food shortage by forcing their captives to breed?
Given their solar allergies, the undead have rearranged society to operate from sundown to sunup, and fear the day when the blood runs out. It’s when the vampires get really thirsty that they start growing rat ears and bat wings. Otherwise, it’s push-button, TV-watching, suck-up-to-the-boss 9-to-5 living for homo fangus. Ethan Hawke (who previously played an outsider in a divided world in Gattaca) plays a haemotologist trying to find an answer to the blood shortage. He encounters a group of “normal” human fugitives and is ethical enough not to turn them in. In return, they let him in on a secret to change the vampire world.
Directed by siblings Michael and Peter Spierig, Daybreakers is a slick-looking, thoroughly enjoyable film, its slightly undernourished plot compensated by some good character drama and one especially cold-blooded killing of a sympathetic character in order to push forward the plot. Willem Dafoe is disappointingly flat – maybe he’s still recovering from the eye-watering Antichrist – but it’s great to see Sam Neill as Hawke’s ambiguous paternalist vampire boss, and reflect that the actor hasn’t changed that much since he was Damien the Antichrist in The Final Conflict, nearly thirty years ago. Apart from a Scanners explosion early on, the gore is sprayed sparingly until the last scenes, which find an ingenious twist on the zombie-style munchfests that usually end Romero movies. As it happens, the Spierigs’ previous film was a zombie piece – the knockabout Undead in 2003 – but Daybreakers is a stride forward.
(c) 2018 Rebellion A/S. Reprinted with permission.