×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Daybreakers

The novel hook has nearly all humanity turned vamp.

With:
With: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Isabel Lucas, Sam Neill, Michael Dorman, Vince Colosimo.

Take the futuristic corporate malfeasance of “The Matrix” and the race to find the post-plague cure of “28 Days Later,” add vampires, and you’ve got “Daybreakers,” the sophomore feature for twin Aussie writer-directors Michael and Peter Spierig (following cheeky 2003 zombie flick “Undead”). The novel hook has nearly all humanity turned vamp, with the mortal population — and their valuable blood — thus nearing extinction. However, the script doesn’t wring many surprises or much character involvement from the premise, and the brothers’ helming, while slick, is short on scares, action setpieces and humor. Lionsgate plans a January Stateside release for this Australia-U.S. co-production; prospects look decent but unspectacular in all markets.

It’s 2019, 10 years after an infection began turning most folks into bloodsuckers and the holdouts into fugitives — or comatose captives farmed for blood by Bromsley Marks Corp. The shortage of blood is causing worldwide panic as the undead populace, starved for the vital fluid, mutate into grotesque, batlike “subsiders.”

CEO Charles Bromsley’s (Sam Neill) chief hematologist is Edward (Ethan Hawke), who’s working on an artificial blood substitute. While a vampire himself, Edward is in sympathy with the humans, helping a group of them elude capture after a car accident. As a result of this good deed, Audrey (Claudia Karvan) introduces him to Lionel, aka “Elvis” (Willem Dafoe), who’s stumbled upon a possible cure that makes vampires mortal again.

Unfortunately, Edward’s younger brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman), a gung-ho loyalist to the human-hunting Vampire Army, has trailed him to this meeting — with reinforcements. The rest of the pic sees Edward, Elvis and Audrey trying to keep one step ahead of their pursuers while experimenting with the (awfully simple) means by which this vampire world might become a healthy human one again. Predictably, bottom-line-oriented corporate types don’t want that to happen.

This strand could be a useful metaphor for, say, global warming and environmental depletion — as companies continue to despoil resources whose exhaustion could imperil planetary life itself. But “Daybreakers” doesn’t evince much interest in exploiting its premise for sociopolitical commentary, or even having fun with the way in which vampire life hasn’t really changed much about everyday (or rather, every-night) behavior.

As a result, it becomes a movie that inadvertently asks the question: If you make vampires so ordinary that they’re no longer scary, seductive or endowed with special powers, what’s the point in having them at all?

Indeed, despite its fantasy trappings — vampire-eye contacts, a cold, steely blue, black and gray “Matrix”-y look, etc. — “Daybreakers” emerges as a competent but routine chase thriller that lacks attention-getting dialogue, unique characters or memorable setpieces that might make it a genre keeper rather than a polished time-filler.

Reflecting their uninspired material, thesps deliver adequate clock-punching perfs, though miscast Dafoe’s quipping yokel needn’t be included in his resume. Production values are glossy; Christopher Gordon’s orchestral score takes matters seriously.

Though shot in Australia, the pic goes for a nonspecific setting and American accents.

Popular on Variety

Daybreakers

U.S.- Australia

Production: A Lionsgate (in U.S.) release of a Lionsgate (U.S.)/Film Finance Corp. (Australia) presentation of a Lionsgate (U.S.)/Paradise (Australia) production in association with the Pacific Film and Television Commission and Furst Films. (International sales: Mandate Intl., Santa Monica, Calif.) Produced by Chris Brown, Bryan Furst, Sean Furst. Executive producers, Jason Constantine, Peter Block. Co-producer, Todd Fellman. Directed, written by the Spierig Brothers.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Ben Nott; editor, Matt Villa; music, Christopher Gordon; production designer/costume designer, George Liddle; art directors, Bill Booth; set decorator, Matt Putland; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Wayne Pashley; special makeup FX, Steven Boyle; second unit director, Ian "Thistle" Thorburn; casting, Nikki Barrett. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 12, 2009. Running time: 98 MIN.

Cast: With: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Isabel Lucas, Sam Neill, Michael Dorman, Vince Colosimo.

More Scene

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

  • Hailee Steinfeld Dickinson Premiere

    Hailee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski on What Modern Women Can Learn From Emily Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson lived in the 1800s, but if you ask the team behind Apple TV Plus’ upcoming series, “Dickinson,” her story is more current than ever. Hailee Steinfeld stars in the the modern-day retelling of the poet’s young life. The actress — who makes her first full-time foray into television with the role and also [...]

  • Don Cheadle

    ACLU Bill of Rights Gala to Honor Don Cheadle, Feature Appearances by Selena Gomez, Regina Hall

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will honor “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Monday” star Don Cheadle at the organization’s annual Bill of Rights dinner on Nov. 17 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Cheadle will be recognized for his activist work as an advocate for racial and gender equality, immigration reform, reproductive and LGBTQ [...]

  • Helen Mirren attends the LA Premiere

    Why Helen Mirren Considers Catherine the Great to Be 'Superhuman'

    It’s no secret that Dame Helen Mirren has a knack for nailing regal roles. Following her Oscar-winning on-screen reign as Queen Elizabeth II back in 2006, the thespian brings yet another powerful ruler to life in HBO’s limited mini-series “Catherine the Great.” Just as she does on the small screen as Russian Empress Catherine II, [...]

  • Taika Waititi Jojo Rabbit Premiere

    Why Director Taika Waititi Decided to Play Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit'

    “Fox Searchlight blackmailed me into doing it,” Taika Waititi told Variety of playing Adolf Hilter in “Jojo Rabbit” at the film’s premiere at American Legion Post 43 on Tuesday night in Hollywood. Staying mum when asked which other actors had been on his wish list to play the role, Waititi explained why he eventually decided [...]

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content