DAYBREAKERS Blu-ray Review

     May 13, 2010

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The vampire genre is the most malleable horror metaphor/plot device in cinema. From Nosferatu, to Lugosi’s Dracula, we can witness unwelcome sexual horror in Max Shrek, to Bela Lugosi’s more welcome sexual advances. In The Lost Boys, it’s a metaphor for being accepted, and in The Addiction its meaning becomes self-evident. And there are a number of Vampire films that have traded on A.I.D.S. to give meaning to blood-sucking. For the Spierig Brothers blood and vampirism becomes a metaphor for oil in their film Daybreakers. Ethan Hawke stars as a hematologist vampire working on finding a blood substitute for the world’s now-majority vampire population. A chance encounter leads him to Willem Dafoe and a possible cure for vampirism. Against him are Sam Neill and the global industrial complex, which are happy to plunder the remaining resources. My review of Daybreakers Blu-ray after the jump.

Hawke pays Edward Dalton, a vampire who is working towards finding a good blood surrogate, but sources have been low for a while, and time seems to be running out – just like the number of humans. Hawke works for Charles Bromley (Neill), and as Bromley’s introduced in a boardroom smoking a cigar, his corporate evilness is not subtle. While out at night, Edward stumbles across Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan), who then hunts Edward down to get him to Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Dafoe). Elvis is the first known case of someone who was once a vampire and was converted back. Edward’s got a brother in the military (Michael Dorman), and when Edward goes missing, he finds himself caught up in a hunt for humans headed up by his brother.

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Daybreakers is a low budget horror movie, and so what is most impressive about this film is the visual scale to it all. Shot in Australia, there’s a real sense of scale with the use of locations, and how the directors Michael and Peter Spierig fill the frame with details and ideas. This is an effects-heavy movie, and from the beginning they give you enough of a taste of the world that you can feel that it is lived in, even if it’s turns more to the character drama from there. Though there’s definitely the influence of filmmakers like Ridley Scott (you can’t make a future-noir without tipping one’s hat), the directors do enough to make the world their own that it’s refreshing in not being too derivative. And they should be credited with getting good actors who deliver decent performances and with having a good spin on the vampire legend. If the film falters it’s only that the ideas and the set up feel a little more satisfying than the conclusion, which is well-put together but doesn’t have that oomph. In that sense, this is a calling card movie, and that card is evident as they’ve signed on to bigger and better. You’re going to be hearing from the Spierig Brothers.

Lionsgate presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 7.1 surround. The film also comes with a digital copy. Extras kick off with a commentary by the directors, and they are very good about talking about the process and how so much of the film involved people dealing with various prosthetics, and how they made some smart choices on their lower budget. The film can also be viewed in Bonusview, which offers a PIP with both storyboards and animatics throughout the film. Then there’s a making of (122 min.) which is exhaustive. It talks to the cast and crew and covers the film from pre-production to release. This is followed by “The Big Picture” (14 min.) a short film by the Spierig brothers, a poster art gallery, and then the film’s theatrical trailer (along with bonus trailers).

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