Film Review | Sunday, 14 March 2010

Bookmark and Share

The clock is ticking, for bad blood

Following the Oscar ceremony last week, I propose that we now take some time to salute the underdogs. Our cinemas are now nicely stocked with polished gems (both genuine and fake) of every genre… but this week’s film has already been booted out of the multiplexes. Which makes its post-Oscar plight all the more poignant. Michael and Peter Spierig’s ‘Daybreakers’ is a creaky construction, but it’s fuelled by earnest energy. Its gleeful mix of genres (supernatural-cum-sci-fi vampire thriller) is shot through sleek-bleak visuals, and punctuated by moments of dodgy CGI work and worse acting. But it’s premise is ballsy, and it delivers what you expect from a vampire gorefest with genuine joy.
What’s not to love?
The year is 2017, and a vampire plague (which is never fully explained… though a newspaper fluttering around at the beginning suggests that a sole bat may have been responsible) has transformed most of the planet’s population into thirsty bloodsuckers. Strangely, however, humanity seems to have culturally adapted to this change. But as the population of mortals fast begins to dwindle, a vampiric corporation sets out to capture and farm every remaining human while simultaneously researching a consumable blood substitute, headed by undead hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke). His work is interrupted after stumbling onto a pocket of human survivors led by Elvis (Willem Dafoe), a former vampire, whose past reveals a cure that could reverse the tide and save the human race. With time running out, Dalton’s only hope lies in outsmarting the security forces of his boss (Sam Neill), whose goal isn’t just to find a substitute, but to repopulate humanity in order to sell its blood to the highest bidder.
There has been a proliferation of vampires in media of late… unless you yourself have been locked away in a coffin somewhere amongst the mountains of Eastern Europe, you must have realised this. But while ‘Daybreakers’ concerns itself with the undead, it is as far away from ‘Twilight’ and its ilk as you can get. In fact, it is hardly reminiscent of any popular vampire narratives, as its conceit is more conducive to the kind of thing found amongst zombie features and other post-apocalyptic genres. And it is the Spierigs’ back to basics, no-nonsense approach that saves the film in the end. While there are certainly ‘messages’ thrown in there (the ‘subtext’ of sustainability is so blantant it is practically text) the chase element keeps things rolling and fun. Hawke and Defoe work surprisingly well when offset against each other: the former with his trademark broody delivery (often insufferable, but justified here) and the latter with his usual wired self. The only real dramatic stumbling block is Claudia Karvan, who plays Audrey, the alpha female ‘Ripley’ of the crew: she certainly looks the part, with her angular, bony frame, but acts so stiffly that it stunts any sexual tension we’re meant to feel she may or may not have with Edward.
Because the Spierigs are relatively new filmmakers, this feels like a film largely made up of fun touches, only barely stitched together into a confident whole. The depiction of ‘everyday’ vampire activity is haunting: a sense of danger is evident even in the most rudimentary of scenes – waiting for the subway, commuters are confronted with an image of Uncle Sam who, instead of calling upon the populace to fight on their country’s side, invites everyone to harvest human blood.

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download MaltaToday Sunday issue front page in pdf file format


Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email