Title: Daybreakers (2009)
Director/Writer: The Spierig Brothers
Cast: Willem Defoe, Ethan Hawke, Sam Neil
This weekend I saw two very interesting horror films. One of them commented on the evils of religion (which I will be reviewing tomorrow so be on the look out for that review) and the other one was Daybreakers, which comments on capitalism and the results of it on society. Daybreakers is a vampire film that comes to us from the mighty inventive Spierig Brothers. These two Australian bro’s were the guys responsible for the totally outlandish zombie film Undead (2003). Undead was an independently funded film about zombies taking over Australia. The film was made with under a million dollars, maxing out their credit cards, and doing everything very low key. In fact, the computer effects for their film were made on their own personal computer, at home! The final results, though not perfect, were very entertaining and proved to the world that these guys could make a film.
One of the Spierig's shooting a scene
Daybreakers is the first film they make with a real budget. Producers took notice that these guys loved making movies and would be capable of making a kick ass motion picture if given the chance. So Daybreakers was born. A very solid sophomore effort if I say so myself. They even managed to amass an impressive cast! Undead was a zombie film that actually put the whole zombie idea through a grinder, shredded it, and ended up with something that’s actually pretty offbeat and original. A hard thing to do when making a zombie movie, since so many of them have been made. But they pulled it off. Undead’s budgetary limitations are obvious at times, but the story line is so out there that it keeps you pulled in. The Spierig Brothers managed to do the same thing with Daybreakers.
Regain your humanity you evil corporate douche bag!
Daybreakers is a film that takes place in the year 2019, a couple of years away from our time. Vampires have taken over the world and humans are harvested so the vampires can feed on their blood. But some humans have managed to escape the vampires and are living hidden, scurrying about like cockroaches running away from the light. Humans are an endangered species, but they are getting organized and they have a plan! In the man time, vampire society is facing another problem. Vampires are running out of humans to feed from and out of this blood starvation, some vampires are starting to mutate into these horrible vampire monster things, rabid, violent, murderous and thirsty for blood! Will the world ever regain its humanity?
Again, the Spierig Brothers have managed to surprise me. Various factors amazed me about this movie but let’s start with the way the film looks. Daybreakers is a very elegant looking film. Since the film takes place during the future, everything looks slick and new. Vampires use a lot of technology. Neon lights, computers, futuristic looking cars and skylines. I loved it. As an added bonus, Daybreakers is pure film noir mixed with vampires and sci-fi. Like most film noir, the story takes place during the night, in the busy city. Staying true to its nourish influences, there are very few day scenes in the film. And when there is a day scene its very bright and colorful, showing us an anti-thesis of what it means to be a vampire, hidden in the darkness and shadows of the night. Whenever it is nighttime, the film takes this grey/blue look to it that fits perfectly with the vampire world. So we have a slick, elegant and stylish looking vampire film. Visually, it’s a one up on their last film.
Thematically speaking Daybreakers amazed me the most. It’s a movie that perfectly encapsulates what society is living through right now. The Spierig’s use of vampirism as an allegory for capitalism and how its bleeding society dry was pure genius. The main villain in the film (played by Sam Neil) is a vampire who is the big honcho of a major company that is in charge of draining humans of their blood. This character represents those big corporations that know the harm they are doing with their way of doing business, but they do it anyway, because the profits are just so high! I also loved how this movie is practically begging society to regain its humanity, by introducing the element of having a cure for vampirism. In this way, the film is sending out a message: don’t be cold hearted and turn a blind eye on humanity! Look at what you are doing, regain that warmth, that caring for your fellow human being.
Vampires have a dilemma on this film. There is good quality blood being sold to people at a very high price and there is bad quality blood, which is what they are feeding the masses at a very cheap price. But what happens when the masses don’t like the crap you are feeding them? This is one of the questions that this film asks. And what will you do when those masses revolt? These scenes talk about how in the world we live in, good food is too expensive and inaccessible to the masses while the unhealthiest food is cheap, and its what poor people have to end up eating. My solution is make good food cheap! You shouldn’t play with peoples health that way. But apparently things aren’t that simple in the real world.
The theme of the rich vs. the poor, the rebels vs. the sysmte is a recurring theme in films today. I recently did a post on Subversive Cinema, and it talked about films that criticize and comment on the way the governments of the world are running things. But these movies have become so numerous as of lately that I’m going to have to do a second post on these socially conscious films. Daybreakers is defenetly going to be on that list because its a film that speaks about the way capitalism and bad government affects us, and the direct results of this way of living. The ravenous mutations that start to appear as a result of blood starvation are a symbolism for the homeless, the bums, the drug addicts, the alcoholics and criminals that inhabit the streets of every country. What I loved about Daybreakers is that it shows us that these creatures are simply a result of the society that they come out of. You give the people shit all the time; and its guaranteed that they are not going to remain happy. You feed them crap, and they will begin to get sick. You don’t pay them enough to survive in the world and they will turn into homeless individuals. It’s no surprise that every country that has an oppressive classist government that stomps on the poor and favors the rich has rebellion on its streets. My question is, do these governments prefer to live with a rebellious population? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we were all treated with the respect and dignity that we all deserve?
This horror film is very influenced by Richard Matheson’s I am Legend. The way I see it, this is the Spierig Bros. version of I am Legend. Its closer to what I am Legend should have been like instead of Will Smith battling a bunch of bald cgi mutants. The Spierig Bros. captured the ideas behind the book way better in my opinion. But even though the film exists within the same situation as Matheson’s novel, it still goes its own way.
On the negative side, the only “been there done that” element that this film has is the rebels vs. the system angle. So you get that formula where we get to meet the rebels, see their hide out/headquarters and the ultimately the government finds them and then the good guys have to go on the run. It was similar to Alejandro Cuaron’s Children of Men (2006) in this way. But hey, what are you going to do? Art reflects life, and this is what a lot of people are going through right now. Its why there have been so many films with this same theme lately. The only other bad thing I can say about this film is that it ends with a whimper, it didn’t go out with a bang the way it should’ve. It blew its wad too soon as they say. But other than that, the film is solid! The Spierig Bros. are slated to direct the upcoming sequel to The Dark Crystal. I’m really curious for that one, these two directors have an eye for slick and stylish visuals and I cant wait to see what they do with a fantasy film.
Rating 4: out of 5