Daybreakers Review

Published 4 years ago by

Short version: Despite a very interesting premise, Daybreakers fails to rise above its average script and mediocre action sequences.

daybreakers trailer 2 Daybreakers Review

Screen Rant’s Rob Frappier reviews Daybreakers

We’ve seen goth vampires stalk the night dressed in S&M-inspired leather (Blade). We’ve seen Victorian vampires roam cobblestone streets in corsets and capes (Bram Stoker’s Dracula). We’ve even seen sparkling teenage vampires brood through the halls of their high school (thanks a ton, Twilight). To my knowledge, though, we’ve never seen a movie where society is completely controlled by vampires, and therein lies the best part of Daybreakers, the new film from the sibling writer-director team of Peter and Michael Spierig.

Daybreakers takes place in 2019, ten years after some kind of outbreak has turned the majority of the world’s population into vampires (the movie is vague in explaining exactly how this outbreak occurred). In an excellent opening montage, the film shows the result of the vampire takeover: A world pretty much the same as when humans ran things. Vampire politicians bicker on cable TV, vampire businessmen ride the subway to and from work, and homeless vampires beg for spare, um, blood.

Okay, so it’s not entirely the same. Still, just like us, the vampires do have problems. For one thing, the declining human population has forced the vampires into a crippling blood shortage (a thinly disguised allusion to our mismanagement of natural resources and our dependence on fossil fuels.)

If that doesn’t sound bad, it’s because you don’t know what happens when vampires don’t get their blood. Trust me, it ain’t pretty. As shown in the picture below, when a vampire goes too long without blood, they turn into giant bat-like creatures called “subsiders.” Subsiders have incredible strength, little to no brain function, and, most importantly, they don’t mind eating other vampires.

daybreakers vampire photo Daybreakers Review

Because of the increasing subsider problem, the vampire world is relying on industrialist Charles Bromley (played with sinister corporate cunning by Sam Neill) and his chief hematologist Edward (played by Ethan Hawke) to develop some kind of blood alternative. Edward, who has never been cool with the whole being a vampire thing, hopes that the blood alternative will help stop vampires from hunting and farming humans. Unfortunately for him (and even more unfortunate for the humans), Bromley’s plan involves keeping the blood alternative for mainstream use but continuing to sell human blood to the upper class.

Given this conflict of interest, it’s no surprise that Edward joins up with a small band of human resistance fighters (whose ranks include Willem Dafoe), to develop a possible miracle cure for vampirism. From here, the film devolves into a series of average action sequences as Edward tries to figure out the cure before the army tracks him and his human friends down. I don’t want to share any spoilers in this review, but I have a feeling that you’ll be able to guess what happens from the time Edward joins with the humans to the film’s inevitable conclusion. Horror fans will be pleased to know that there is a healthy dose of gore throughout the film, but, for me, the constant barrage of blown up/burned/devoured bodies was a bit of overkill, especially at the end.

In speaking with fellow Screen Rant scribe Ross Miller about the film, we both came to the conclusion that Daybreakers didn’t do enough to live up to its ambitious premise. Despite a few humorous lines, the movie took itself way too seriously to be enjoyed as either a dark satire of corporate greed or a campy splatterfest. Conversely, the characters weren’t developed well enough and the plot was too predictable to work as a moody sci-fi/action/horror thriller. In essence, the movie was a run-of-the-mill piece of genre fare, albeit one with a remarkably original idea.

Despite my disappointment with Daybreakers, however, I firmly believe that the Spierig brothers have a lot of potential to become successful Hollywood directors. While the story fell flat, the work that the directors put into making a world run by vampires seem real is worth noting. Additionally, while the action scenes didn’t generate much excitement (and they were few and far between) they did look good. Considering the film’s minuscule budget (a measly $21 million), this is another achievement worth mentioning.

All things considered, is Daybreakers a bad movie? No. Was it anything other than average? Unfortunately, no. Have you ever gone into a movie with high expectations because of a really great trailer? That’s what happened to me with Daybreakers. The vampire genre has been so played-out lately, that I thought Daybreakers would provide a refreshing twist on a story that has become stale. Unfortunately, the tease of the trailer was never fully realized. I wanted to find out what would happen in a world run by vampires, and, in a way, I did. However, for me, seeing how vampires ran their society was more interesting than watching Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe trade pithy one-liners as they “raced for a cure.”

Ultimately, I would recommend checking out Daybreakers if you’re a vampire movie buff or a big fan of gore. At the very least, you’ll be getting a unique take on a genre that’s been done to death. I’m hoping that the potential demonstrated by the Spierig brothers in this film will translate into something even better for their next outing.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5
(Good)

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TAGS: 3 star movies, daybreakers

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  1. Damn, I was also interested in it because I was sick of the whole “Vampires are cool” or “Vampires are romantic” BS we always get, this one was just “Vampires are normal” so that’s kind of different. I’m not a fan of the vampire genre obviously, I passed my goth phase years ago…

    Do you think I should watch it??

  2. @Ken J

    Well Ken, as I said in the review, it’s not a bad movie, but it’s not great either. The ideas behind the film are very intriguing, and I’d be interested to see them fleshed out in additional media (a Daybreakers comic book would be really cool), but the plot was a little threadbare for my liking.

    There are a few decent scares, some great make-up and effects work (especially on a smaller budget), and some occasionally funny lines. If that sounds like enough to spend your hard-earned dollars on, go for it. Some critics are absolutely in love with this movie. I’m just not one of them.

  3. damn just like T4. great trailers but the movie doesnt live up to it(even though i give t4 4/5) this was my 3rd most anticipated movie of the year.i still watch it and probably like it.

  4. so some ctitics are loving. how many of you guys at screenrant seen it. and do you all agree the 3/5 rating.

  5. Thanks for the review but nothing will stop me from seeing this movie. Dafoe and Hawke are great actors and this is an interesting premise.

  6. Not a huge fan of Hawke, but definitely a fan of Willem Dafoe. I’ll probably end up seeing it this weekend if my friends are up to it…

  7. @Rob

    Thanks for the reply, I think I’ll end up seeing it, it does look interesting even if it ends up not living up to expectations.

  8. I’m seeing this movie tomorrow and I know it’s gonna be just like Law Abiding Citizen, really good trailer(s) but a forgettable movie. Hopefully it will be better than that train wreck Law Abiding Citizen.

  9. As a huge Sam Neill fan I will be checking this one out very soon!

  10. Damn, I have read several reviews and they all pretty much go along the lines of this review. I was really looking forward to this movie because the trailers looked great…I probably will skip it now…maybe avatar thsi weekend, still havent seen it!

  11. Will wait for video I guess. It looks like it had promise.

  12. @hudson

    Ross saw it because it opened in the UK earlier. It only opens today so none of the other writers (myself included) have seen it yet.

    Vic

  13. Whoa people, dont let a review tell you what to go and see, let it be a guide sure but at no point does it say this movie is terrible.

    Films like this should be supported, made cheaply, by very talented people and with great actors.

  14. Listen to Beckett and don’t take a quantum leap! I’ll be seeing the film soon and while I respect most reviewers opinions I see movies based on what suits me. When reading a review it always good to check out other reviews or articles they have written. Read a wee bit of their body of work, believe me you will find reviewers who love what you love and hate what you hate.

    I happen to disagree With Mr. Frappier on quite a few of his articles but I always read them for his analysis and even keeled delivery. He’s a good writer his opinion is worth reading.

  15. @Ken j
    If you’re looking for a good example of “non-romantic” vampires, go read a graphic novel called Life Sucks.
    It’s almost like Clerks, the main character working at a soul-crushing job at a convenience store. He just also happens to be a recently made vampire.

  16. @DrSamBeckett

    Thanks for the good advice. If I’m interested in a movie, I never let someone else’s opinion dissuade me from seeing it and neither should anyone else. In fact, I’d prefer that everyone goes and sees Daybreakers so that we can all talk about it on an even playing field.

    @Docktorwu

    I appreciate the compliment and I’m glad to hear you’re still interested in seeing the film. Let me know what you think.

  17. Just got back from seeing the film. Really was pretty good. I’d read different reviews about it, this one included, but I was still able to walk into it fairly openly. I’m trying to think of what to compare it to as a film, and I can’t think of anything directly in the sci-fi or horror genre. That’s not the sense I was given in walking away from it. Those elements are THERE, but not because they’re necessarily trying to make them the focus. It’s just sort of like those are the components needed to complement the type of focus it has.

    Not sure if that makes sense, so I’ll give an example of what I mean. I know bringing up this other movie might get a mixed reaction, but it’s kind of like how I walked away from The Dark Knight: it was Batman, but those elements of being a superhero were there only because it was an element of the film, not the centerpiece. You get superhero movies who put that at the forefront and they quickly lose their flavor because it’s a tried and familiar approach. I walked away from TDK feeling more like it was a crime-drama, and I THINK I can say I walked away from Daybreakers more like I just watched a conspiracy thriller. That’s not to compare it to TDK at all, but how it plays with elements of different genres of film. I feel like it did a really good job blending them.

    It has it’s weaknesses, sure, but I think a fair bit of the criticisms leveled against it come from what people think it will be when walking into it (“is it sci-fi or horror or Twilight???”). I’d watch it again, and would be game for a follow-up. The ending (which I thought was a bit clever and unexpected) leaves it to where having a sequel could very naturally build upon the story as a whole without feeling tacked on.

    My two cents.

  18. I’ve been torn on this one. I mean it looks ok but it’s not all that unique or original. In fact it reminded me over the story in Blade Trinity with the vampire final solution.

  19. @Xigbar

    Well, that actually makes me NOT want to read that. I’m not really a fan of Clerks or any of the Kevin Smith stuff, haha. I know, I know, I’m in the minority, but whatever… :-P

  20. @Daniel

    Yah, I’m kind of iffy on it too, but a bit more interested in seeing it than you sound like you are. But if you end up seeing it, definitely let us know what you think. Good to hear opinions from people going into it with a critical mind…

  21. Oh I’m sure I’ll still see it. Just waiting got a big list of movies still haven’t seen Sherlock Holmes being one of them and it’s currently my number one. Ran in to some money problems.

    I’m not shocked to hear that you don’t like Smith Ken you seem like the type who has a hard time enjoying that kind of comedy. I’m a big Smith fan though I admit I don’t really care for Clerks. The first one I just couldn’t get interested in and the second one had a terrible story and was crude for no other reason but to be crude. However Dogma, Chasing Amy, Mall Rats, and Zach and Miri Make a Porno were all great. Hilarious films that I could watch over and over. I even enjoyed Jersey girl to a certain extent. I thought it was clever funny and I don’t blindly hate Ben Affleck because it’s popular.

  22. i think its not as bad as it seems
    i’ll be watching it tomorrow

  23. Saw the movie tonight and I thought it came out okay overall, but was seriously, seriously lacking in the character development department. I didn’t connect with any of the characters, and found myself not really rooting for either side at one point.

    World building/vision was interesting, though, and worth a look, I thought!

  24. it didn’t really catch with me
    im thrriled to see Johny depp in a vampire saga

    i dont get it when you guys say to spend your hard-earned dollars on…
    Ive got to say that the highest money that Ive ever paid for a movie was about 2 dollars
    yup in here (iran) we can buy movies with original quality only for 1 or 2 dollars
    well that’s one of few benefits of living in a third world country
    and by the way im not terrorist you fagots (to whom that ever called Persians terrorists)

  25. Saw Daybreakers a few hours ago. It was decent. I think had it of been longer with some more story it would be almost a 4 star movie. To anyone else WHO HAS ACTUALLY SEEN THE MOVIE AND NOT STILLS OR TRAILER FOOTAGE, did you get the feel that some of the scenes had the feel of the first Blade movie to them, and Im talking about cinematography and the colors used, not the dialogue or action sequences. I mean Sam Neill’s character was almost a mirror of Udo Kier’s Dragonetti from Blade (at least I thought).

  26. Thank you for the review – it was well-thought out and well written. It’s one of the few films I’m going to see in the near future because I love the genre, though. You’re right, as an avid fan of the genre, I want to see how the did it differently, even if it’s not a FABulous film. :)

  27. I wouldn’t say this movie was bad, but it was disappointing. It had a unique premise, and it started off well enough, introducing some interesting ideas and concepts regarding how everyday life would change but strangely remain the same if we devolved into a society of vampires. But a little over half way through the movie it started to fall apart. Its like the directors didn’t know how to end it so they just threw in a few new plot elements and twists, none of which worked. It only complicated the movie and took away from the previously introduced themes.

  28. Also it reminded me of T4, in that the both started off well and ended poorly. I was almost laughing at how bad/predictable it was towards the end.
    Oh Ethan Hawke was good, but Sam Neil was the balls in this movie.

  29. Some friends and I went to see this and I didn’t know a whole lot about it. I’d never seen a preview all the way through or read a review.

    In that respect, I really liked it. Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe were a complete surprise and just made the film very enjoyable. Since I had no expectations, nothing was a real let down. It was a great entertainment. There were parts that really made me jump and had me leaning back in my chair.

    Two things kept going through my head as I watched the movie:
    1. Do we really need another vampire named Edward? They call him Ed a lot of the time which helped.
    2. Ray Liotta would have been great as this kind of vampire. I don’t know what role he could have played, maybe the hematologist co-worker. He just would’ve looked amazing with those eyes.

    My favorite part is just one shot towards the end of the movie. It’s a wide shot of all the soldiers fighting. It’s in slow motion…every detail. I wanted to rewind so I could see that part again. So much is going on that even in slow motion, you can’t catch it all.

    Don’t go in to the movie expecting a great satire on the corporate world. Just go in for entertainment. No expectations.