Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Feed the bats! Tuppence a bag! [Review: Daybreakers]

Daybreakers is all about the vampire gags.

It's the near future, a few years after a vampire virus apocalypse, and Daybreakers takes every opportunity to show you how they have adapted the world around them: they drink tea with blood, they've adapted their cars and buildings to shield them during the daytime, they have an army equipped with daytime armour and tranq guns that hunts down humans for blood, and so on. I'm not sure how a vampirism virus would actually make you invisible in your wing mirror but the DoP within me loves the shot so I'll let it pass.

The plot itself is pretty good - the vampires are still unused to their sudden ascendance and have ambiguous feelings about it, embodied in the two brothers, one a grunt in the human-hunting army who seems content with the way humans are treated, the other a haematologist who tolerates the situation as a temporary measure but has many regrets. The plot develops along similar lines to Stephenie Meyer's The Host, with the haematologist on the run from his own kind and living with a band of rebel humans who don't quite trust him. Some of the ideas about possible cures for vampirism are a bit convoluted and illogical but, on the other hand, they lend themselves to a brutal twist in the ending.

The main vampire gag is the blood bank which features heavily in the plot. Humans are stored suspended in a giant vault and milked like cows - but the bank looks and runs like a city bank, and when the world's blood supply begins to run low, investors start removing their "investments" triggering the best cinematic banking confidence crisis since Michael Banks decided to cash in his stock options and feed the pigeons.

The film was produced by Australian twins Michael and Peter Spierig, whose previous films include Undead and the acclaimed short The Big Picture. I noticed the twins have given themselves a credit for the effects as well as for writing, producing, directing, etc. Pat on the back - the effects are definitely a high point of the film, including plenty of David Cronenberg-style blood and gore as well as architecture and landscape that tells a lot of the story.

Overall Daybreakers is stylish and witty. It sometimes relies too much on sudden, contrived B-movie scares but when it rises above this the original ideas really shine through.

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