Ben Rothstein
Owen Gleiberman
January 07, 2010 AT 05:00 AM EST

Daybreakers

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
98 minutes
Wide Release Date
01/08/10
performer
Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill
director
Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
distributor
Lions Gate Films
author
Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
genre
Horror, Sci-fi and Fantasy

We gave it a C

Vampires are popping up so often these days, and in such a trendy sympathetic light, that it’s getting hard to remember when they were the vicious and spooky ”other.” You could argue that Daybreakers takes the new commonality of vampires to its logical extreme. The movie is set in 2019, 10 years after vampires have taken over the earth and established an undead society that looks a lot like the human one they wiped out. Yes, they’ve still got big incisors and golden eyes, but they also stand on subway platforms in Willy Loman overcoats, waiting glumly for the next train, and in line at fast-food outlets that serve coffee and ”20 percent” blood. That would be human blood, and the reason for the scant percentage figure is that the world is fast running out of it. (It’s a thin metaphor for our situation with oil.)

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), a vampire hematologist, works for a corporation that farms the blood of human cattle, who hang naked and unconscious with syringes ? holstered into their necks. Portrayed by Hawke as a sulky silent renegade, Edward lives in a cobalt blue modernist apartment that looks like it could be the vampire version of Mickey Rourke’s lair in 9 1/2 Weeks (talk about crypts!). He is working on a plan to create synthetic blood, a crusade that would rescue the vampire world (and save a few humans, too). The only thing that stands in the way is — you guessed it — bloodsucking corporate greed. The sibling writer-director team of Michael and Peter Spierig gather the promising elements of a socio-satirical horror movie. But when Edward joins a roving band of human renegades, led by Willem Dafoe as a guy named Elvis, Daybreakers turns ? into a ponderous apocalyptic chase film — it’s like Children of Men with exploding-plasma shock effects. The best thing you can say about the movie is that it pours some very old blood into a new plastic bottle. C

See all of this week’s reviews

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