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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
A little girl, possibly no more than 7, leaves behind a note. We don't know what it fully says but there are very mature passages, written in very mature penmanship, about not wanting to live this way. She sits in her front yard in the early morning twilight. The sun comes over the mountains, touches her, and she burns, screaming, to death.
This is how they make a vampire movie in Australia, bitch! With that opening scene, the Spierig Brothers (UNDEAD) let you know that they are going to tear ass throughout this movie and you won't see it coming.
Ethan Hawke (GATTACA, SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS, HAMLET, TAKING LIVES) plays Edward Dalton, the head researcher at Bromley Marks Pharmaceuticals. He's working on a blood substitute for vampires, which are the majority of people living on the planet. As soon as that's said, you can see the problem, right? This isn't an energy crises, but a blood crises and reserves will be depleted in one month.
So what happens to a vampire that doesn't drink sufficient amounts of blood? It becomes a Subsider, degenerates into an awesomely powerful bat like thing, the frontal lobes of its brain regresses, and it becomes maddened and violent - but mostly hungry. The average vampire is no stronger than you or me, though barring any sunlight or wooden stakes through the flesh, they live virtually forever. A Subsider can overpower a Vampire.
The head of Bromley Marks, is none other than Charles Bromley (Sam Neill: IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, JURASSIC PARK, JURASSIC PARK III, EVENT HORIZON). Charles is happy to be a vampire as the ... disease or whatever it was ... couldn't have come at a more opportune time. He was a human dying of cancer one day, a cured vampire immortal the next. Charles wants the blood alternative because there are no longer enough humans for all of the vampires. 90% of the people population is vampire and Vampire society will be wiped out by the end of the month.
In DAYBREAKERS, vampires are the greedy, cruel, short-sighted, and rather stupid beings we've come to know from back in the days of Bram Stoker. The idea of breeding large farms of humans - something so simple even ants understand it - just doesn't occur to arrogant vampires. This is in part because many of them, like Charles, don't just need and enjoy drinking blood, they enjoy the suffering they cause while doing it.
Charles Bromley: "Her blood has a delightful bouquet of fear."
Ed, on the other hand, has regained a sense of ethics. Every day he walks past the massive blood bank where rows of humans like something out of THE MATRIX, are held comatose until they are drained. It repulses him so he stopped drinking blood, is slowly starting to turn into a Subsider, and his boss and his brother Frankie (Michael Dorman: TRIANGLE) know it. Ed is in a race against time to find a cure for being a vampire, but does anyone want it?
While Ed ponders that question and the physical change he's going through, he crashes into some humans in hiding led by Audrey Bennet (Claudia Karvan*: LONG WEEKEND). Making a quick decision to turn them in or help them, Ed chooses the latter, and starts a chain of events that will brand him as an outsider and a traitor.
Hooking up with the humans, Ed meets Lionel "Elvis" McCormac (Willem Dafoe: eXistenZ, AMERICAN PSYCHO, SPIDER-MAN [all]). Lionel reveals that he was once a vampire, but quite by accident, he found a cure. What the coven of few wild humans need to know is, will the cure work for all vampires? That's why they need a vampire hematologist like Ed to study the problem.
It all seems pretty scientific, doesn't it? Which is why it's time for a
So let's consider the modern source. Bram Stoker never had his vampire getting killed by the sun. Dracula walked in the sunlight as a normal man. But it was as a creature of the night, that Dracula regained his supernatural powers and strength. Vampires and their issues with sunlight were created by Director F. W. Murnau, who came up with that idea in his vampire flick, NOSFERATU.
No one at the studio could figure out how to end the picture, so Murnau just had the creature fade away in the sunlight. Since then we've had vampires in sunlight decaying to dust (Hammer films), boiling away (SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM), turning into a demon, catching fire and burning to death (VAMP), exploding (NEAR DARK), and burning to death (BLADE). The Spierig Brothers went for burning to death in the sun and exploding if staked.
Okay, sure, why not? I don't know what could cause that and I don't know anyone who does. And since the movie never makes clear how the vampire epidemic came about in the first place - it just happened - I'll leave it alone.
This is what I can't leave alone in a science fiction movie: Vampires and mirrors.
Continued at the SCIENCE MOMENT/Daybreakers.
Writers and Directors Michael and Peter Spierig could have gone all uber goth with this like UNDERWORLD, and it would have been like money in the bank. They could have gone all hardcore rock & roll like NEAR DARK (one of the best vampire movies of all time), and I would have been cool with that too. But the brothers take their time to tell a fully fleshed out, involved, and considered story.
Charles Bromley is a sadistic vampire that heads a faltering corporation and it's all his own fault. He's too wrapped up in his personal desires to run his company properly and it's about to cost the lives of millions. At the same time, he still looks for his human daughter Alison (Isabel Lucas: TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN), who refused to change when the vampires, and her father, offered it. But as much as he loves her, he is unable to understand her, nor her him. In Hollywood hands this would have been played out with all of the layered subtlety of a Will Ferrell movie. Here it is truly heart-wrenching.
There are moments in DAYBREAKERS where visuals take over and all we can do is silently watch the carnage. The cinematography and editing of these scenes turn them from what could have been obvious and gratuitous, to thoughtful and considerate. Conversation about DAYBREAKERS speaks of scenes that evoke recollections of the death camps of Nazi Germany, but in truth, they could apply to any brutal dictatorship.
Australian movies have an ethos all their own, reflective of their culture, and often don't play well abroad. For me however, I've been hooked on Aussie cinema since the first MAD MAX.
In the theater, half the audience was whooping and cheering and the other half was dead silent. At the end, some applauded loudly and some didn't. I was in that part that did.
Why? Okay, time to set my enthusiastic fanboy loose!
I have so HAD IT with romantic emo vampires! I SO miss vampire movies like BLADE!
Despite its flaws I give it Four Shriek Girls. BEST! VAMPIRE! MOVIE! EVER!
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