Saturday, January 9, 2010

Movie with Abe: Daybreakers

Directed by Michael & Peter Spierig
Released January 8, 2010

Vampires are all the rage right now. With “Twilight,” “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant,” and other films and shows floating around, it’s likely that things will start to blend together and pale in comparison to previous material. There’s also a sense that maybe there’s no new material left to cover and perhaps all the vampire storylines have been completely drained. Fortunately, there’s new ground on which to be treaded in this feature film. Just like “True Blood” often makes lesser material like “The Vampire Diaries” look like kid’s stuff, “Daybreakers” makes “True Blood” looks like kid’s stuff, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

One of the things that sets “Daybreakers” apart from some of the other vampire fodder is that it’s not based on a book series. It’s an original story with a new take on incorporating vampires into modern-day society. It’s set ten years in the future, where most of the human population has been transformed into vampires and the remaining humans are hunted for their vital blood supply to feed the vampires. Scientist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is researching an alternative to using human blood as a source of sustenance, and the film is equal parts science-focused fiction and horror-thriller.

It’s nice to see a vampire movie with brains, one which stresses reasoning and logic over simply inserting the undead into contemporary society. This isn’t the kind of film that features centuries-old vampires. All of the vampires were not just once human, but recently human. They should be able to remember what it’s like to be a normal human being, yet they seem so radically transformed by their newfound situation that nearly all of their humanity is lost. It’s a fascinating look at how radically these former people have evolved, and something that isn’t altogether expected in this kind of fare. It’s perhaps a deeper film than it needed to be, which is certainly a plus.

In many ways, “Daybreakers” is like “Gattaca,” and not just because they both star Ethan Hawke. It’s a sleek, futuristic story which doesn’t take too many liberties in designing its only slightly more advanced technology and vision of life and society, and one where shaping and preserving the future is of utmost importance. A forward-looking scientific take on making the future actionable is compelling, and gives the story a necessary urgency. Nothing is held back in its depiction of this vampire-infested world, and violence and gore reign supreme. The first scene sets the tone for the film, with a despair-filled young vampire running outside in the daylight and having the sun viciously rip her flesh off. But it’s a smarter film than that, and sharp visuals, writing, and cleverness are all equally important. It’s a marvel to find such fresh and original material in the midst of current vampire craze. This is the one that breaks through and makes its mark, and it’s an especial pleasure to find such fun fare in the first month of the new year.


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