Thursday, February 11, 2010

DAYBREAKERS - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW



DAYBREAKERS – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

A good horror film should stay with you for the rest of your life. It doesn’t need to be too gross or too offensive; what it needs to do is force you to consider concepts and realities that you haven’t thought about. Good horror is a vehicle that takes me to a bent town that I haven’t been to before. However DAYBREAKERS took me to a town called, “I have seen this movie already only done better.” Sticking with the metaphor, DAYBREAKERS took me to a pedestrian ghetto outside of a rather original town named BLADE 2.

Both BLADE 2 and DAYBREAKERS are about vampire mutations. Both films contain varying degrees of para-military vampire-ops that handle their business with state of the art, military-grade weaponry. Both films feature a reluctant vampire. Both films also prefer the flash-burn explosion of any killed vampire. Furthermore, the ripoff of BLADE 2 is completely obvious in the first scene of DAYBREAKERS in which a young vampire girl writes her suicide note and then goes out to kneel before the rising sun. She lets off a raw, dying-animal squeal as she flames, disintegrates and collapses in a glowing heap of golden ashes.

Next we meet Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) who is invisible in the side-view mirror of his car. The year is 2019, and vampires now rule the earth. There are a few humans, but they are being rounded up because the vampire population is starving from a lack of blood. Dalton is the chief hematologist of the Bromley Marks Blood Bank. He works directly under the blood-for-profit man himself, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill).

The majority of the film chronicles the insidious evils of Bromley himself and his Bromley Marks Blood Bank. The remaining findable humans have been pricked and neatly seated upright, naked, pale, and bleeding out on huge shimmering, sterile columns. What is dripping down is the last of the world’s blood supply.

Dalton is in charge of finding a synthetic blood substitute. He is on top of his game, but he hasn’t cracked the code yet. A test subject takes a sample dose of the latest attempt, and his temperature increases eight degrees. Then he suddenly projectile-vomits a geyser on the chest of a nearby nurse, his face rapidly blemishes and pustulates, there is a false beat of sanity, and then his head pops like a blood-filled surgeon’s glove.

If this isn’t enough of a problem, Dalton also has a gung-ho brother named Frankie (Michael Dorman) who is in the neo-vampire military hunting down humans. Frankie’s contrived, refound humanity much later in the film is treacley-sweet and just as vomit inducing.

On the whole, vampire society is crumbling. Graves are dug up and punk-vamp kids suck on corpses looking for blood. A Bromley Marks slideshow presented to both Dalton and Bromley demonstrates that as vampires starve out, they lose their intelligence and take on the classic physical traits of NOSFERATU.

As mentioned above, humans are the tiny, hunted minority in this future. There is a TERMINATOR/ MATRIX/ ROAD WARRIOR interlude with a resistance faction of humans. But it is frail. This aspect of the film is weak when we first meet these people right down to the point where these people get taken out. It isn’t a spoiler for me to tell you that they get smoked because they are nothing more than whispers of cliché, throwaway characters you have seen in better movies. These poor bastards might as well be introduced onscreen with laser scope dots on their foreheads.

Dalton does manage to run across some humans who have found a way to cure vampirism. Elvis (Willem DaFoe) is a former vampire who has become human again thanks to a serious, sun-scorch treatment that smacks the vampire out of you. Clearly DaFoe is an actor that could do anything. He could have pulled off THE WRESTLER; I am sure of it. Why did he choose to saddle himself with a role that requires a weak southern accent that sounds eerily like Slim Pickens as O.L.D. BOB in THE BLACK HOLE? Why is he dropping cornball lines like, “I do love a good barbecue,” and “We’re the folks with the crossbows”?

Hawke’s Dalton is also guilty of trite, throwaway lines. When he utters, “I can’t remember what its like to be human,” Hawke’s not even trying to work for his paycheck.

Part of the issue here is that we have currently blown out the walls in movies, television, music, and literature with vampire market oversaturation. There is nothing new or original in the concept. DAYBREAKERS makes the anemic reach for the reversal of the lame, vampire movie plague, but the result feels like a drunken, five minute noodling with the script of the superior (yet flawed) BLADE 2. There is not a moment in this film that doesn’t seem completely staged, prepped or under some sort of off-camera duress.

If there is anything remotely amusing about this film, it has to do with the shape of this futuristic vampire society. Chain-smoking is the norm. Extra blood-shots are currently not available at the local corporate coffee shop. Also, there are sun-screening domestic Chryslers that squawk “UV warning” in that same know-it-all voice that seems to accompany all futuristic vehicles. The police presence is pronounced, and people with pointed teeth and ridiculously colored contact lenses are everywhere.

The society is amusing but unconvincing. DAYBREAKERS plays it close and keeps its societal vampire musing within the confines of Edward Dalton’s immediate life. The scope of world-wide vampire infestation is never remotely realized in this film. It is only mentioned and then assumed.

With two slight twists involving corporate skullduggery and re-humanized blood, DAYBREAKERS grinds out its last act with Elvis and company driving into the future in a SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT car with “From the ashes spring new life,” hick-decaled on the side. “We have a cure, we can change you back, It’s not too late,” is what Dafoe’s voiceover trails out with.

This film would be perfect if it was running a metaphor about our loss of humanity within society. It would be worth poring over if it was about the loss of the world’s moral compass and the few people left who wish to fight for some shred of decency in a damned culture. If the metaphor extended to the Bromley Marks Blood Bank as a warning about certain businesses and banks and how these monopolies are, in essence, causing us as a society to cannibalize ourselves, the film would be worthwhile. The corpses of the bodies of the dead vampires engulfed in flames could speak to society’s latent fear of death, whether the end of existence or the beginning of life as a slave in hell. Sadly, none of these weightier points could possibly be housed on a carriage as weak as DAYBREAKERS. Forget about this trash. Trust me, after I post this review, I will be doing my best to do just that.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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