January 14, 2010

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Daybreakers (R)
A tortured-soul vampire (redundant) seeks to find a blood substitute to feed the hordes of a mostly vampire world in Daybreakers, an action movie that is mopey even by vampire standards.

Oh woe is Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), a vampire who refuses to drink human blood and is working furiously at a massive lab to find a working substitute. Unlike your vampires in Twilight and True Blood, the vampires here vastly outnumber the humans, who are their main food source. It seems that an outbreak 10 years earlier turned most of the world into vamps, which means that remaining humans have become either factory cows or desperate outlaws. But now the blood is running out and the vampire population is in danger of turning to serious bloodsuckers — nearly non-sentient human bats that eat and kill anything. Edward’s corporate boss (Sam Neill) simply wants to keep the vampires drinking, but Edward hopes the substitute will lead to the rebuilding of the human race and the saving of his sad sad soul. His work eventually puts him in contact with a renegade band of humans — merely talking to them without biting them could lead to his arrest — including Lionel “Elvis” McCormac (Willem Dafoe), a man who may hold the secret to a cure that will turn the vamps human again.

As vampire movies go, Daybreakers is more horror-of-eternal-life than it is dreamy-fancypants-poet-suffering-attractively. It’s also a little more fantasy action — the movie takes place in a future world that has adjusted to the vampire lifestyle. Without death to worry about, more people smoke. But even without the need for sleep (I assume, they don’t specify), people still drink coffee (spiked with blood, naturally). These details add some interest to familiar scenes of fangy villainy and vamp-on-vamp betrayal.

And this (worn vampire mythology, fun little details) is the balance the whole movie strikes. Hawke’s character (and performance) is comically dull but I can watch Sam Neill be evil, even cheesily evil, all day long. Dafoe’s character is like a bad Nicolas Cage role and yet his flavor of crazy makes him fun to watch.

Is this the movie keeping you satiated until your vampire media of choice offers a new installment? Not really, but it’s an OK diversion from your bloodsucker thirst. C

Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity. Written and directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, Daybreakers is an hour and 38 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Lionsgate.