Friday, July 02, 2010

Prepare to Have Your Day Broken

I recently had the chance to check out DAYBREAKERS on BluRay.  I have to admit that I totally got my hopes up.  I mean, a vampire flick starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill has to be enough to make your dick at least a little hard, right?  Put that spring in your step, so to speak.  Alas this was not the case.  What the fuck is so hard about making a good vampire movie?  The last truly great vampire film I can recall is INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, although even that one I haven't seen in a while so I may be way off base.  Then of course there's a personal favourite of mine, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, a totally awesome flick from Tarantino and Rodriguez way back in that mysterious time known only as "The 90's" with arguably the best pussy speech ever ("...Take advantage of our penny pussy sale!  Buy any pussy at our regular price, you get another piece of pussy, of equal or lesser value, for a penny!  Now try and beat pussy for a penny.  If you can find cheaper pussy anywhere, FUCK IT!"). 

But then there's a whole collection of fucking terrible shit like the new TWILIGHT series which, from what I've seen and heard, are complete garbage.  To be honest I haven't seen much of the movies or the books, because as soon as I heard that the vampires can't go in the sunlight because their skin "sparkles like diamonds" I couldn't fucking take it seriously.  THE LOST BOYS sucked major goat balls (all due apologies to Kiefer Sutherland) and Francis Ford Coppola's DRACULA was a convoluted mess.  I had a lot of hope for UNDERWORLD, but Len Wiseman screwed up what was a really cool premise.  At least that movie had Kate Beckinsale's glorious body encased in leather.  I also recently watched the first season of HBO's True Blood, which I must admit is pretty cool, but still leaves something to be desired.  While technically not a movie, True Blood does have a really high production value and a lot of nudity (the good kind, you know, with women).  Then on the tails of TWILIGHT came a little TV production known as The Vampire Diaries, which again is just a bunch of horny teenagers running around whining about god knows what. 

Then out of the blue comes DAYBREAKERS, a little vampire film from Michael and Peter Spierig apparently trying to capitalize on the recent resurgence in vampirism.  Unfortunately they took a really cool concept and just like UNDERWORLD and they really mishandled it.  The basic premise is that sometime in the future (it doesn't really matter when) the vast majority -let's say 95%- of the population has been turned into vampires.  This becomes a problem because their only viable source of sustenance -human blood- is becoming scarce even due to the efforts of a large corporation headed by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) that keeps humans sedated in a large MATRIX-style facility and farms them for their blood.  While the upper classes still have enough, the masses are on blood rations which becomes a problem because apparently when vampires don't get enough blood they become feral, ravenous beasts.  This same company also has a large research team led by one Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) trying to develop a synthetic substitute for human blood.  Edward (a popular name for vampires, apparently) gets mixed up with the human resistance led by Lionel "Elvis" Cormac (Willem Dafoe) who claims he used to be a vampire.  Co-operating with the resistance and a small group of vampires who want things to change, Edward works out a cure for vampirism.  Armed with this cure he returns home to try and save the rest of the bloodsuckers only to have to deal with the military and the heartless bastards in charge of big multinational corporations.

So the movie started off pretty cool and it was a neat take on the whole vampire genre.  It was the first time I can recall seeing a vampire movie where the bloodsuckers outnumbered the humans, especially on such a massive scale.  I liked how the filmmakers showed how the vampires still had jobs and how they had adapted their society to overcome their particular weaknesses, ie, exposure to sunlight.  The whole underground tunnel system was a cool idea and the cars rigged for daytime driving with the cameras and the shades and whatnot.  They also showed how vampires always look so suave without the use of mirrors: infrared cameras!

They set up the premise pretty quickly and efficiently.  Basically with the human population dwindling there is a shortage of life-sustaining human bean juice.  This is a huge problem because without human blood vampires start to turn into mindless beasts.  They can't feed on other vampires or themselves because then they mutate into giant, bat-like creatures.  The vampire military exists seemingly just to hunt down humans to extract their delicious juices.  It's pretty clear that the vampires and the whole blood shortage is supposed to be a metaphor for some present-day concerns like our reliance on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources, the global shortage of fresh water, corporate greed, the dangers inherent in the growing power of the military-industrial complex, and the growing lack of quality hookers who give proper head with no teeth-related accidents.  OK, the hooker thing might be a stretch.  This, of course, gave me hope because it looked like there was going to be some depth to the movie and it was going to explore some hard-hitting issues, but with vampires.  Unfortunately what could have been a very entertaining and thought-provoking movie took a left turn down Mediocrity Boulevard.

In my mind currently there are three ways a movie can go to become really great: 1) Sheer entertainment value (ie. comedy, action or heart) 2) Depth and layers of meaning (ie. metaphor, character development) or 3) Some combination of the first two.  Of course it goes without saying that all of this has to be tied together with some kind of unifying theme or idea that permeates the entire movie.  Where this movie failed was consistency.  It set itself up like it was going to explore all of these big ideas, and then quickly degenerates into just a good guy versus bad guy cat and mouse game with lots of guns, people being set on fire, and death by vampire mob.  The main character Edward is given this really cool conflict at the beginning of the movie with his brother, but for some reason this is left by the wayside for the majority of the movie and then sloppily inserted at the end like crooked dick at a Russian orgy.  The characters were established very well at the beginning but then they stagnated and we weren't really shown to have any sort of arc or progression.  It was simply the old mistake of having a premise and a setting, creating some characters and having them do some stuff but with no real connection to said established setting.

Don't get me wrong, the problem wasn't the acting.  I am a huge fan of Dafoe, Hawke and Neill and they all did the best with what they had to work with, but unfortunately a bad script is a bad script and there's only so much a master craftsman can do with the material he's given.  Neill's character in particular is handled very poorly.  By the end of the movie this complex character became nothing more than a cartoon villain.  The only thing that was missing was the evil laugh and the twisty moustache to twirl around his finger while looking directly at the camera.  Another thing I didn't like was the "cure" for vampirism.  I mean there's nothing wrong with it per se, it's just a matter of not really working for me personally.

If you haven't seen this movie yet and are really stoked, I strongly advise you to lower your expectations so you won't be totally disappointed.  Overall there was a cool concept that was mishandled.  However, the movie had a great look to it, the world felt believable (well, as believable as a world run by vampires could feel) and there is a lot of very gruesome violence with some eating scenes that reminded me more of a zombie movie, which in my mind is a good thing.  If you're a huge fan of the vampire movie genre you'll probably enjoy this a lot more than I did, but otherwise it's little more than a mildly entertaining distraction.  Still waiting for the quintessential vampire movie.

In the end I give DAYBREAKERS a 6/10 = The Head of a Human Resistance Fighter Being Torn Off By a Pack of Hungry Vampires.


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