After the massive success of the “Twilight” movies and books, and their apparent stranglehold over many moviegoers and Hollywood in general; I was beginning to wonder if we would ever get to see a traditional vampire movie. You know, one that abides by the commonly accepted rules of the vampire legends, unlike the aforementioned that ignores most of them whenever possible.

I for one just want to see vampires get a movie that does them justice. Not another one of these overly romantic pieces of drivel that we’ve been subjected to over the last couple of years. Finally, it seemed the wait was over with the recently released “Daybreakers” returning vampires to their customary status of predators of the night. But, was this a proper return to the fearsome creatures we once knew or has all the romance robbed them of their bite?

“Daybreakers” is set in a world where the majority of the populace has been turned into vampires. For the longest time the vampires have hunted and captured the remnants of humanity for use in their massive blood farming operation; however, because of their insatiable thirst, humanity’s numbers have dwindled significantly. As their food source becomes more and more scarce; one vampire scientist, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), is working vigorously to develop an alternative sustenance for his brethren before they all begin turning on each other. However, a small batch of human resistance, led by a former vampire (Willem Dafoe) seeks to cure Edward of his curse and in turn show him the way to save the world.

Despite being intrigued by the trailers, the end result of “Daybreakers” left me extremely disappointed by the lack of anything interesting or refreshing being brought to the table. The movie, written and directed by The Spierig Brothers (“Undead”), is a hodge-podge of thinly developed stock characters, predictability, a few borrowed ideas, and an inability to ultimately decide to which genre it belonged.

Leading the roster of under-developed characters is actor Ethan Hawke (“Taking Lives”). Personally, I’ve never really been a big fan of Ethan Hawke or the majority of his movies. He always seems pretentious in every role he plays, and this one is no different. That aside, he does an adequate job as Edward, the film’s protagonist, who just so happens to be one of the only vampires that despises being a vampire. His character should have been someone the audience could relate to and root for; however, I for one, could not get interested in anything he was doing over the course of the movie. His character arc is far too slow and meandering, not to mention Hawke brings his typical arrogance to the role which of course didn’t help matters.

Fighting alongside Ethan Hawke’s character is Wilem Dafoe (“Spider-Man”) as a former vampire turned human. Typically, you can count on Wilem to deliver an entertaining performance to say the least. Beyond that he’s hit-and-miss as to whether he’s handing in a solid, believable performance or another over-the-top, borderline caricature of the character he was supposed to play. With his portrayal here he keeps his eccentricity in check, resulting in his character coming across as flat and boring. There were some brief moments of entertaining dialogue and/or actions that his character had to do, but for the most part this was one of those times where he should have gone overboard and the character would have been better suited. It’s like I said though, he can be hit-and-miss.

The ever-reliable Sam Neill (“Jurassic Park”) takes on the role of the film’s primary antagonist and apparent leader of the vampires. While he certainly brings a dignified presence and sense of authority to the role, plus an undeniably malevolent streak; in the end, it’s still not enough. The problems arise from his character being of stock quality and simply generic in nature; thus, leaving Sam’s talents wasted in the role. Perhaps if the writing/directing team had crafted a more uniquely developed character for Sam, and the other actors as well, to really sink their teeth into, then the outcome could have been so much better than the mediocrity on display.

Speaking of the story, the writer/director team of The Spierig Brothers (“Undead”) seemed to have a decent template for a good vampire movie with “Daybreakers”. However, like so many other writers and directors have discovered, a good idea does not always pan out as one had hoped, especially when it embraces unoriginality.

The problems with the movie’s story begin early on with that troublesome plight of predictability being ever-present. For roughly 75% of the movie I had a fairly accurate idea of where the story was going and what the characters would end up doing. When this occurs, it’s a relatively safe bet that the movie is not going to come close to being satisfactory no matter the talent involved. Another cause for the story’s predictability was some of the borrowed ideas from movies such as, “The Matrix”, “Mad Max”, and even fellow vampire movie “Blade 2”.

Whenever a movie is too easy to predict based solely on its screenplay, throwing in borrowed ideas only makes the problem all the more evident. Maybe before the Spierig Brothers hatch another movie, they should take the time to really nail down their ideas and do so without stealing from other, more superior movies.

Now I will say that the final 25% of the movie was somewhat less predictable than everything that preceded it. With that being said, while I didn’t anticipate some of the events that occurred in the closing moments, I also wasn’t pleased with it either. The reason being is that the previous chunk of the movie, although borderline boring to me with its unoriginality, was at least striving to be more of a supernatural thriller rather than a horror film (not a typical genre for vampire movies). That all changed in the movie’s final 20 minutes though.

My guess is that the Spierig Brothers remembered they were making a vampire movie, and what’s a vampire movie without tons of blood and guts being spilt? So, after over an hour of minimal gore on display, suddenly the screen erupts into chaotic grisly violence and everything in view is now crimson. I’m typically not one to dismiss a movie simply because it’s a blood-soaked member of the horror genre; however, when the majority of the movie is relatively tame, such an abrupt switch into horror mode is quite jarring. My opinion is that a movie needs to find a genre and stay in it, be it horror, thriller or whatever, but don’t switch at the last minute to meet some blood-spilling quota for vampire movies.

It’s disappointing that a movie with decent star power (even with the despicable Ethan Hawke’s presence), was hindered by a flimsily conceived story, eliminating any possible hope of entertaining this viewer, at least. It’s really too bad, because I was hoping that this would be the movie to redeem the vampire sub-genre from the depths it had sunk too with this whole “Twilight” phenomenon. Oh well, there’s always next time.

“Daybreakers” is rated R for violence, language, and gore.

2 thoughts on “Daybreakers”

  1. I agree with your rating. I wasn’t too fond of this movie. There are too many vampire movies being released now. I’m getting sick of it.
    Though the twist on vampires in this film was interesting.
    I liked how a “cure” was being researched. It was an interesting change

  2. Thought it was an interesting twist on a premise we have seen before, and certinaly not a bad thing to have of Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill and Willem Defoe in a well written genre flick!

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