Saturday, May 22, 2010

I vant to suck your blood substitute!: Daybreakers (2010)

The other day I Netflixed Daybreakers, directed by the Spierig brothers. I had toyed with the idea of seeing it at the movies when it came out, but I rented it mostly because I wanted to compare notes with my 10th grade girls at school – who love anything about vampires. They thought it was a fun movie (though they acknowledged its ridiculous aspects) and they have crushes on Ethan Hawke, who plays Edward Dalton, a vampire hematologist who is working to find a cure for a vampire plague that threatens to deplete sources of blood and cause global starvation.

I’m not a fan of vampire movies, but I love science fiction, so I was entertained by a number of elements in the film. I liked the totalitarian society allusive of Fahrenheit 451 and THX1138 - with black-clad policemen wielding rods with electrified collars used to subdue vamps rioting for blood or to capture members of the starving poor class of vamps turning into quite scary bat-monsters. When Dalton is taken in by human resistance fighters and encouraged to develop his cure, I enjoyed the gothic Frankenstein elements of his experimentation. I enjoyed the film’s gloomy, film noir look, with vampire businessmen in trilbies and overcoats ordering shots of blood with their Joe at the local coffee bar. In addition, there’s an outrageous moment with an exploding head that fills an operating room with blood that was a hoot.

The film entertained, I always enjoy Ethan Hawke, and the plot moved along expeditiously, but what I found frustrating was aspects of this sci-fi world that seemed illogical or, at least, caused confusion because they were not explained clearly enough. If a writer has enough imagination to dream up an alternate world, he should have sufficient imagination to iron out the inconsistencies in logic. Maybe I’m not well versed enough in vampire lore, but it seems that each new movie about vampires reinvents the way vampires work. Afraid of garlic or not afraid of garlic. Sparkles in sunlight or bursts into flames in sunlight.

Thus, I have a few questions I’m going to ask my vampire experts at school on Monday, but I thought I’d note them here for everyone else. (I have one 11th grade girl in my Drama Club who is truly an expert on Greek mythology as well as the lore of vampires, angels, devils, witches, zombies, and werewolves, and she has read widely about these topics. She recently encouraged me to watch The Craft (1996), and she admitted that I was right when I surmised, “I bet you’ve tried witch spells, haven’t you?” She said, “With all I’ve read about this stuff, do you think I haven't?” I didn’t ask her if her spells had worked.)

Anyway, here are some of the unclear aspects of this vampire world that bothered me. I also include a question or two for any expert who can help me.

1. In the first shootout between the vamps and the resistance fighters, the humans are shooting bolts from crossbows and long bows. Cool. Can’t kill a vampire with a bullet. But in an extreme long shot we see vampire cops exploding. I was thinking that some of the bolts carried bombs. Can you blow up a vampire? That’s what I thought until much later in the film when it is clearly shown that a bolt to the heart causes the vamp’s heart to explode. Okay. Nice. But make this clear in the beginning, not towards the end. Also, the vamp cops have body armor, but I guess it's not impervious to bolts to the heart. What use is the body armor if it doesn't protect the heart?

2. This concerns the above-mentioned exploding head. Said exploding head comes from a vampire who’s being tested with the cure. Do vampires have blood? Do vampires bleed? These vampires bleed - and yet when Dalton gets a bolt in the arm, he doesn't bleed!

3. SPOILER ABOUT OPENING SCENE: I liked how this movie rebels against Twilight skin-sparkling-in-sunlight absurdity. In the striking open scene, a little girl writes a suicide note, says she can’t cope with immortality, and goes out to sit in front of the house to wait for the sunrise. Sunrise comes and whoosh! She bursts into flames. As it should be! But the fine line between bursting into flames and not seemed ridiculous. A vampire can avoid burning up by standing in the thin shade of a tree? I thought not.

4. SPOILER ABOUT FATE OF SAM NEILL AS THE EVIL CHARLES BROMLEY: Sam Neill plays the villainous blood tycoon. With his normally dark features, he looks sinister with vampire contact lenses and fangs. Of course, he wants to prevent the discovery of a cure because that will kill his profits from dealing in the farming of human blood. When he gets his comeuppance, he is tied to a chair and ripped apart by vamp cops who seem to be sucking his blood? If, in this world, vamps have blood, then why isn’t the starving populace cannibalizing each other in a mad frenzy?

5. Dalton is also trying to develop a blood substitute to stave off starvation. Well, what about animal blood? As shown in the poster above (The Matrix!), humans are tapped for their blood. What about deer or dogs or cows? There is no mention in this film that animals have died out.

6. I thought vampires had to hang upside down like a bat or lie in a coffin during the day. Although most activity in this vampire society happens at night - and it's cool how the streets a vacant during the day and then everybody comes out at night - they seem to be quite active during the day, driving around in sunlight-shielded cars driven by means of video screens, or executing vampire criminals by dragging them out into the sunlight.

7. Do vampires have fun? Do they read? Go to movies? Keep a movie blog? Bromley loves his immortality, and he enjoys a brandy snifter of pure human blood, but where does the fun come in?


Jason Bellamy said...

I always enjoy Ethan Hawke

So does he. Which is why I can't stand him.

FilmDr said...

I'm not sure if Daybreakers is worthy of your astute analysis. I remember being impressed with the way the film alludes to Metropolis at times in terms of design, but by the end, as various creatures kill each other off in elaborately gory and complicated ways, I lost interest. The movie became more hokey and unbelievable, especially in the latter third. The problem with the writing was a shame, because I liked the cinematography. I agree that the screenwriters didn't spell things out enough, and the scenes where vampires transform into humans struck me as histrionic.

Hokahey said...

FilmDr - Thanks for the comment. I liked the atmospheric settings. You're right it's hokey - and the mass blood orgy with the vamp cops with striking and ridiculous at the same time. But sometimes when I get a hankering for sci-fi, I tend to go kind of easy on what I see and I enjoyed this one.

Fletch said...

"When he gets his comeuppance, he is tied to a chair and ripped apart by vamp cops who seem to be sucking his blood? If, in this world, vamps have blood, then why isn’t the starving populace cannibalizing each other in a mad frenzy?"

He was turned back to human - hence their interest in him in the first place.

LOL @ Jason (though I don't agree with him; I've always liked Hawke as well, though he's pretty flat in just about everything).