An unknown plague has transformed the world's population into vampires. As the human population nears extinction, vampires must capture and farm every remaining human before time runs out. Businessman Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) is busy making and selling farmed human blood, with the help of his top haematologist Edward (Ethan Hawke); but when Edward literally runs into Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and her small band of humans who might have a secret that has the power to save the human race.
Review by Louise Keller:
Life's a bitch and then you don't die, is the best line in this adept sci-fi horror thriller in which the human race is under threat of extinction and being a vampire is the norm. Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig have created an eerie and striking reality, complete with superb production values and a strong cast to pull it off. If blood and gore is your thing, you will not be disappointed, but the film also offers a good tale that makes sense and satisfies in the context.
We are sucked into a world of vampires whose problems are quite specific. Blood replaces climate change at the top of the list and humans are rounded up like cattle to top up the never-ending requirements of bloody supply. This is a world in which the coffee you buy at the local take-way promises a known percentage of blood. Of course there is never enough blood to meet the demand and underground subways connect the city's vampires as they avoid the sunlight by day.
That's where Ethan Hawke's doctor of hematology comes in; he is working on creating a blood substitute. Like our favourite Twilight vampire, his name is Edward and Hawke is terrific. But it is Sam Neill as the blood entrepreneur, who caters for all markets who steals the film; his Charles Bromley is a juicy villain we love to hate. (Isabel Lucas is appealing as his rebellious daughter.) It is when Ed meets Claudia Karvan's human fugitive Audrey, that the direction of the film changes. Willem Dafoe is good value as the man his friends call Elvis (we learn why, in due course) and Michael Dorman is impressive as Ed's contrary brother Frankie who works for the establishment.
The film looks great with George Liddle's stylish production design, while Christopher Gordon's complex score boosts the tension. The visual effects with zombies exploding and fiery experiments in the sunlight are all well done and much of the time we are on the edge of our seat, wondering where the story will lead. It's a different slant on saving the world and Michael and Peter Spierig have concocted an imaginative and arresting genre film that delivers on all counts.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Stylish, engaging and yes, intelligent, the Spierig brothers have fashioned a commercially attractive and creatively decent movie for the vampire genre, bridging the divide between slasher and thriller. Gore fans will be satisfied, but the film also caters for the broader audience whose taste for thrills requires the cast to act intelligently - I use the word act in all its senses.
Ethan Hawke has the central role of the haematologist who has the choice of lending his expertise to his commercial benefactor or his conscience, and Hawke is excellent. Strong support from Claudia Karvan as one of the last of the humans who is determined to find a solution, with the help of a man known as Elvis (Willem Dafoe) whose unique and mysterious accident gives Edward a clue to saving mankind.
Sam Neill is outstanding, too, as the businessman Charles Bromley, who lab needs the plague to stay in profit, and who is prepared to sacrifice his own daughter (Isabel Lucas in top form) to this end. Michael Dorman, in a big switch in roles from a truckie in Prime Mover, plays Edward's conflicted brother, a soldier whose loyalties are tested several times. Vince Colosimo has a small but crucial role as Edward's lab associate, who also has a choice of loyalties to make.
The plot is well structured and well told, and the only piece of information that is fudged is the detail of how Edward might find a solution... but perhaps that's intentional. The Spierigs certainly show their chops as filmmakers capable of stepping up to a bigger budget than their debut, Undead, and have delivered a serious film in a genre splattered with the remains of cheap attempts to cash in. Ben Nott's cinematography is splendid and composer Christopher Gordon matches the film's tone with a score that absorbs the traditions of the genre but refashions them.
Published June 19, 2010
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DAYBREAKERS: DVD (MA15+)
CAST: Isabel Lucas, Willem Defoe, Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Jay Laga'aia, Vince Colosimo, Michael Dorman, Christopher Kirby, Emma Randall, Michelle Atkinson, Robyn Moore, Paul Sonkkila,
PRODUCER: Chris Brown, Bryan Furst, Sean Furst
DIRECTOR: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
SCRIPT: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Nott
EDITOR: Matt Villa
MUSIC: Christopher Gordon
PRODUCTION DESIGN: George Liddle
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 4, 2010
SPECIAL FEATURES: .
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: June 16, 2010