Daybreakers will hook you from the very first scenes, which slam you into a bleak, frenetic near-future where most humans have gone vampire without contemplating the consequences. Like how quickly the world will reach peak blood when everybody drinks it.

Written and directed by the Spierig Brothers, Daybreakers is a welcome reminder that the vampire legend is a versatile one, and overlaps nicely with many themes in contemporary science fiction. The Spierigs have a background in visual effects, and it shows in their careful worldbuilding of a city in 2019 where almost everybody is a night-dweller. Gleaming skyscrapers are connected by webs of covered walkways; the "subwalk" system coils beneath abandoned daylight streets. Cars have been fitted with webcam systems that allow people to drive via roof-mounted cameras with the windows blacked out. Indeed, all mirrors are replaced with webcams so the non-reflecting vamps can check themselves out. It's a cyberpunk vampire scenario, with all the awesomeness and camp that epithet implies.


If you're suffering from Twilight Fatigue Syndrome (TFS), this gritty, unromantic tale will be a welcome break. Our main character is Ed (Ethan Hawke), a top hematologist who is working for megacorporation Bromley Marks. Ed's trek to the office leads him past a grim Starbucks-style stand selling blood-spiked coffee ("Still serving 20 percent real blood!" their slogan promises) and a massive human blood farm where naked, unconscious people hang from a wall of machines that slowly suck their life out. Sam Neill is evilly unctuous as Bromley, the corporate exec who's gotten rich off factory blood farming. And poor, emo Ed, who refuses to drink human blood, is working for Bromley purely for humanitarian reasons: He wants to create a synthetic blood substitute so that they can stop killing humans.

So you've got your stock vamp movie characters: The good vamp who won't eat humans; the evil vamp who wants to rule a vamp-dominated world with his blood-soaked fist; and, of course, filling out the cast is a scrappy ex-vampire with a crossbow named Elvis (Willem Dafoe) who likes fast cars and wants to stop the killing.


The characters may be recognizable, but this movie works because the world they inhabit is completely original. Blood represents a natural resource that's running out, much like oil. But implanting that resource into humans turns a potentially clunky allegory into something much more interesting. We're not killing the planet - we're killing ourselves. We're drinking ourselves in our coffee, and selling ourselves in wine bottles. When the blood runs out, eating becomes so expensive that many of the vamps starve, and the hungriest turn into "subsiders," animalistic creatures with wings and brains of mush. The subsiders are hunted by authorities who roust them from what look like homeless encampments under the subwalks and condemn them to death by sunlight. So we've got a new caste system, with rich vampires on top, poor vamps and subsiders beneath them, and humans all the way at the bottom.


Luckily our heroic scientist Ed runs (literally) into Elvis and dedicates himself to finding out how the guy cured his own vampirism. There are a lot of action-packed, slightly silly scenes where Ed's frantic experiments are contrasted with the rapid degeneration of vampire society as blood runs out. Though the film's conclusion is preposterous and contradictory, it's hard to have too many hard feelings about it because, well, this is a scifi action vampire movie. And Daybreakers packs a punch on so many fronts - original story ideas, creatively gross fight scenes, acting that's hammy in a fun way - that you'll leave the theater feeling soundly entertained.

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