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Blood thirst

Yet another vampire movie.


BLOOD OMNIPRESENT: In "The Daybreakers."
  • BLOOD OMNIPRESENT: In "The Daybreakers."

“The Daybreakers” imagines that somehow, the 2010s turn out worse than the 2000s did: By 2019, an outbreak of vampirism has gone from epidemic to default setting. Vampires run giant corporations. They're sitting senators. They commute via underground subwalks, drive with wraparound supertint on their sedan windows and take human blood in place of cream in their coffee. Trouble is, life has gone to hell even for the vampires. A global blood crisis has sparked hunger riots, and the capture of stray humans has dropped to almost nil, even though the military attends to nothing else. Worse, blood starvation leads to mutations that turn relatively civil vampires into ferocious, cannibalistic monsters, who accelerate their transformation when they desperately drink their own blood. It would almost be enough to feel sympathy for the vampires if they weren't also growing humans like hydroponic tomatoes in massive blood farms.

Now then. Getting on to the subject of blood. In this movie it is splattered across floors, swilled from snifters, sucked straight from wrists, streamed over ice, sprayed from severed limbs and generally fetishized by directors Michael and Peter Spiering, who naturally choose as their hero hematologist Edward Dalton, played by Ethan Hawke, a late and unwillingly converted vampire who is rushing to develop synthetic food-grade blood to avert a famine. “Life's a bitch and then you don't die,” he tells his soldier brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman), a zealot for hunting down humans. Dalton unwittingly encounters a group of crossbow-wielding humans, led by Elvis (Willem Dafoe), whose skin, burned like microwaved cheese, suggests a solution better than artificial blood, if Dalton's employer, a wickedly imperious Sam Neill, will allow it.

Back to the blood. Vampires are keen on the stuff, after all, and they're starving, willing to suck it off walls and squeeze it from blood bags. Hawke balances the film with his prissy abstinence — in this city, a vampire who won't drink blood is like a coyote who won't eat hamburger, and it's nice to have a real person along to lead us through the story, even if he does have a long set of speech-impeding incisors. When “The Daybreakers” takes its time in sketching this nightmare world, nibbling at the edges with well-placed graffiti and oblique news reports, it's a spurting font of dark red fun. But at 98 minutes it rarely finds a moment to take a proper breath and let the tale unspool, and winds up somewhere between campy horror, gory action and vague sci-fi. It may devolve into B-movie territory by the second hour, but at least it's a B-positive.


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