Friday, November 15, 2013

Daybreakers



2009  ***

You might think that because I'm tired of zombies, I'm probably tired of vampires too.  Maybe I should be, but I'm not -- when I hear about new vampire flicks, I always hope they're good.  I believe in vampire chic, and because you must be wondering, I'll tell you:  No, I haven't seen any of the Twilight movies nor read the books.

There are two elements of Daybreakers that satisfy the goth in me.  The first is the premise itself, coming from the always dramatic category of The Bad Guy Already Won.   Somewhere in this movie's backstory some guy said "If we don't stop them, they'll take over the Earth!" and then he subsequently failed to stop them and was proven right.  I like that.

Because it turns out vampires are total crap at running a society; a population dominated by immortal predators is an unstable biological model and the humans are almost all gone.  Nice going, vampires.  Do the zombies get all whiny when they're all out of brains to eat?  No, they keep walking around.

The other aspect of this movie that I liked was the vampires' retro fashion sense.  It's like the world was recreated by the slender cross section of society that embraces both vampire LARP and swing dancing. The men all wear hats and smoke, and the local counter girl dresses thusly:

It turned out later that the vampire coup was backed by powerful bowtie corporations

Unfortunately that's the bulk of what this movie has to offer.  It takes a lot to tell a global story with just a handful of actors and locations, and this flick doesn't have it.  Instead you get a lot of the usual vampire posturing about how great it is to be a vampire yadda yadda suck, and on the other side you get guru posturing from Willem Dafoe about how great it is to stop being a vampire.  I love Dafoe but he's at his worst here, sporting the nickname "Elvis" (really?) and a goatee you just want to yank off and stomp on.

In my last review I awarded three stars to a brave little movie that was certainly underfunded and not too bright.  I rate Daybreakers the same, it's got some worthy ideas and visuals but it isn't as bright as it thinks; when it ultimately shoots itself in the foot you're surprised it could aim that well.

I'm going to end with some major spoilers below the next pic, but in my opinion you should just read them anyway.  It's an okay movie to spoil.

"What's that, my fuzzy darling?  Hush!  No naughty talk until we're alone..."

Elvis reverted to a human after a freak accident, in which he was exposed to sunlight but immediately immersed in water so he didn't burn up.  Ethan Hawke concocts an elaborate controlled way to repeat the process that seems way harder than running out in the sun and then into a lake.  But it works, and the added bonus is that vamps who suck re-humanized humans get re-humanized themselves.  If you think that sounds like a too-easy win I'd agree with you.  They play it differently, with the three good guys driving off into an uncertain future and the Big Bad Vampire Pharma Corp getting their blood substitute working in the nick of time.  But...

Suppose you tell people about the sun+water cure, and about the new viral spread of re-humanity.  That means blood-starved vampires can cure themselves and be immune from further attack unless the attackers want to get cured too.  If there's a blood substitute and human blood that's useless to vampires... there's suddenly no conflict.  Oops!

5 comments:

JPX said...

"when it ultimately shoots itself in the foot you're surprised it could aim that well." Love it!

I didn't read the spoilers. For some reason I can never bring myself to read spoilers. I think there's always the thought, "I still might see it someday" that causes my avoidance.

The premise of this actually sounds interesting and I like the way the characters dress but as you suggest - that's not enough to carry a movie. Dang it, Octo, I hope you saw a few good movies this year!

AC said...

great review, octopunk! i'm with jpx, hope you also got in some quality horror this year.

DCD said...

I watched this a couple of years ago and gave it the same rating. And I said this about Dafoe:
"The corniness of Willem Dafoe (who I normally like) spouting his down-home vampire-knowing wisdom." So yeah, much the same thoughts!

Johnny Sweatpants said...

My favorite Octo bit here is "I love Dafoe but he's at his worst here, sporting the nickname "Elvis" (really?) and a goatee you just want to yank off and stomp on."

I'm generally don't care for vampire flicks but I am open minded if a good one comes along (Let the Right One In for example).

Trevor said...

Agree with all your points - I'm actually just really surprised that no one has reviewed a twilight film yet.