Daybreakers is certainly one of the more interesting vampire films of recent years. None of the topics of the film are brand new, but few films have put them at the centre of their story in such a manner.
The world of Daybreakers is a world dominated by a vampire civilisation. This civilisation’s constant need of human blood means that humanity has been hunted to near extinction and the vampires are facing death through famine. A parallel construction of two races on the edge of oblivion. And a dystopian world that is both post- and pre-apocalyptic, depending on whether you view it from the human or the vampire perspective.
Everyone will probably find a different messages in this film. This vampire civilisation on the verge of collapse can be seen to suffer from non-sustainable exploitation of a resource that is depleted at a much faster rate than it can be replenished. Depending on your fancy, you could fill in any resource you like – oil, water, soil, food…..
The mechanisms presented in this film also mirror a deep financial and economic crisis; while the management of blood supplies will no doubt remind many of industrialised agriculture.
Playing with such imagery always means flirting with the danger of your film suffocating under its own metaphors and thus becoming arbitrary. But this is not the case here. The obvious echoes of our own world help to make the vampire civilisation seem real and believable. In fact, the greatest strength of this film lies in its excellent world-building. Strong and coherent visuals also contribute to that effect.
Interestingly, within its world-building the film manages to combine both the traditional image of the vampire as an intelligent being and the more modern interpretation of vampires as zombie-like freaks – two variations that would normally be incompatible.
Plotwise, the film is a bit thin. The central character Ed (played by Ethan Hawke) hates his vampire existence, which strains the relationship to most people (vampires) around him, including his brother. In his lab job Ed searches for a nutritional replacement for human blood, but what he discovers instead is going to rock his world to the core.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers appear to be unsure what to do with either the world they have been building or with their plot. The film climaxes in gory fight-scenes that are more reminiscent of zombie films, while the story patters along. In the end, certain things are happening without anyone seeming to have a real plan; and the film feels to a certain degree open-ended in such a way that I could not blame anyone for thinking that the filmmakers were trying to lay the groundwork for a sequel
There is some fine acting from a solid cast. Especially Ethan Hawke and Sam Neill stick out.
I am prepared to give this film 6.5 to 7.0 out of 10. Imdb’s current rating stands at 6.5.
The Spierig brothers have certainly delivered a very interesting vampire film that is well worth watching, especially for its world-building and its looks. Also a nice watch for anyone interested to see what you can do with the genre. But I struggle to call this film a “must-see”.