A Sci-Fi Honey Vampire Month Review by Katie

Daybreakers (2010)

You’d better hope that we’re not headed for a future overrun with creatures of the night, because vampires are not the friendliest when they rely on humans for their continued existence. Along with money, basic needs, and obtaining a renewable food source for sustenance, living forever is neither cheap nor easy. In the Spierig Brothers’ 2010 film Daybreakers, the real cost of immortality lies in the capitalistic machine that runs it; if blood is in demand, those who supply it will rule the world. As one vampire who must choose between being part of the disease or part of the cure, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) works for “The Man,” but longs to be one of “The People.” What better metaphor to stand in for soulless corporate avarice than a tribe of creatures who thirst for nothing more than to bleed humanity dry?

The film is set in 2019, ten years after a vampire plague has turned most of humankind into the walking (and flying) undead. Surviving mortals are enslaved to supply a continuous flow of plasma, but those who still have a functioning heartbeat are diminishing in number. Dalton is a vampire hematologist working for Charles Bromley (Sam Fuckin’ Neill), the head honcho at a pseudo-pharmaceutical company that’s putting lots of money into developing a synthetic blood substitute (*cough*TruBlood*cough*) during the farm-fresh human blood drought and beyond. Bromley stands to profit forever off the vamp’s dependency on his faux blood, but his plans are marred when Dalton discovers a human resistance group that holds the secret for reversing vampirism. The question now becomes: should this cure be developed into a means by which vampires can return to their human state? Or should they be forever subjugated by the company that exploits their dependence on blood for profit?

Sweet, delicious O negative on the rocks.
It doesn’t take vampire super-vision to see the allegorical nature of the Daybreakers plot, but it’s still a pretty ingenious concept. We’re all slaves, in some way, to a multifaceted and deeply flawed capitalist system to attain the basic tenets of our survival: food in our stomachs, a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs. The extent to which major companies keep consumers “down” in order to keep their profit margins up is a staggering injustice perpetrated on a largely uninformed public. Dalton is not only choosing between being vampire and being human; he is also choosing whether or not he wants to remain a soulless corporate drone. HBO’s True Blood had introduced the concept of bottled imitation blood for more than a year before Daybreakers premiered in theatres, yet the show didn’t quite examine the implications of such an industry until well into seasons five and six. Daybreakers conceives of a future where the monopoly over a life-giving resource leads to a devastating disparity between classes of people, and it’s a concept that is not too far from our own reality if the element of vampirism is removed from the equation.

A glimpse into the future of office cubicles.
Kinda feels like this already, doesn't' it?
The commentary on consumerism doesn’t just stop at synthetic blood in Daybreakers; it is seen and felt in the entire future world the film has created. The rise in the vampire population means a rise in technology that is in service to vampires, because in reality any company would view this plague-ridden development as an opportunity to dominate an untapped market. “Day-driving” shields on luxury cars, UV-warning alarms, and an entire nighttime infrastructure are among the many things that allow vampires to lead some semblance of their human lives before they became immortal light-sensitive bloodsuckers. These hi-tech touches are incorporated nicely into a nostalgic film noir aesthetic that the Spierig Brothers are now known for, demonstrated most recently in their time-travel effort Predestination (2015). The visually striking dichotomy between a simultaneously old-fashioned and futuristic setting is reminiscent of a certain Ridley Scott sci-fi classic; but since this film has vampires, it’s more along the lines of Blade Runner meets Blade.

With more crossbows.
Given all the potential this film has for greatness in the vampire sub-genre, it’s really a shame when Willem Dafoe’s character shows up – usually the best thing about any given movie – and Daybreakers backslides into a run-of-the-mill “us vs them” action movie mentality. Still, the film is conceptually and visually compelling enough to keep it afloat for a good portion of the runtime, and even features some top-notch vampire creature effects (wait until you meet the “subsiders,” they’re tons of fun). Revisiting this film after reviewing the Spierig Brothers’ Predestination has made me an official fan of their work, and I look forward to checking out what they contribute to the horror/sci-fi genre next – especially if they work with Sam Neill again, who makes ANYTHING worth watching.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three-and-a-half bottles of TruBlood out of five. Damn the man!

Daybreakers is available via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, YouTube VOD, Google Play, & blu-ray/DVD

Would Willem Defoe be in YOUR vampire slaying gang?
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