a primal root review
Here it is. Our first major horror release of the decade. (Well, besides the Renee Zellweger flick Case 39. But where the hell is that playing?) A vampire horror/science fiction amalgam starring pedestrian actor Ethan Hawke, and the glorious awesomeness of Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill and helmed by the two brothers whobrought us the 2003 zombie action flick, Undead, Michael & Peter Spierg. The film was completed in 2007 and, for whatever reasons, is only now being released early in 2010.
The film I am talking about is, of course, Daybreakers, a strange little film (93 min.) that’s being released as this new vampire craze is at it’s peak. As opposed to the current run of romantic love story driven vampire vehicles Daybreakers takes a different approach to the material with a uniquely topical premise.
In the year 2019 vampires have populated planet earth. Over the ten years between now and then humans were given the chance to convert. Those who did not were hunted down and used as a blood source for the vampire population to snack on. In fact, humans are nearly extinct and Charles Bromley (Neill) runs the business that happens to be the leading supplier of blood and the supplies are running woefully short. As the vampires are deprived of blood they begin a horrifying mutation into completely psychotic rubbers bat monsters. Edward Dalton (Hawke) is on the payroll as a scientist trying to find a solution to the problem in the form of a human blood substitute. Dalton is a human sympathizer and ends up on the side of a group of human revolutionaries lead by Elvis (Dafoe) who claims to have the key to reversing the effects of vampirism and getting the old ticker thumping once again.
Staying true to the very basic vampire tradition of the rich feeding on the blood of the poor and underclassed Daybreakers had an interesting premise resting in its hands. It is used as an allegory for man’s usage and abuse of natural resources. As the supplies run short and lower class begins to fall away a new lower class must take its place. It just so happens to be a lower class populated by ravenous, maniacal, blood lusting rubbery bat people.
I went in expecting a bit more social commentary wrapped within the pretty, dark and steely frame work and for the first ten or fifteen minutes they served up some pretty cool food for thought. But slowly and surely the brains of the piece take a seat and let the throbbing action boner take over as car chases, shoot outs and vampires explode into hundreds of meaty, juicy bits all over the set. Who knew that staking a blood sucker through the heart activated a self-destruct mechanism? Kosher!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my action crazy, wet, and sloppy but Daybreakers seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. As if it’s not so sure of the picture it wants to be. “Do we want our audience to think or would we rather shower then with vampire viscera?” Sadly, what could have been a brilliant vampire film about the growing struggle between the haves and the have nots is more of a vampire movie that looks to take place in the glossy, highly stylized world of The Matrix.
Daybreakers is competent but bland and routine genre piece that had a lot to offer, but in the end, didn’t want to dig too deeply beneath its own surface. And what we ended up with is a sleek, polished little bit of filler.
Hey, at least there were no high school love triangles or glamorizations of teen suicide.
-The Primal Root