Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Michael Dorman, Claudia Karvan and Sam Neill
Written and Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Running Time: 98 minutes
It is 2019 and vampires now rule the World but they are in a feeding frenzy now that human beings are as scarce to come by as turkeys in midsummer. Without human blood they turn nasty and soon look in need of a bit of botox. Edward (Ethan Hawke) is a clever blood scientist vampire who might just save the World but the forces of undead Capitalism led by the mean Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) try to force him into line. All he needs is the love of a good woman, say someone like Audrey Bennett (Claudio Karvan) and a bit of help from a wild, lived -in Elvis Presley aficionado called “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) and you have a winner….or do you?
“I’m as surprized as anyone, but this clever vampire movie from the Spierig Brothers proves the genre still has some bite left in it.” Big Picture Big Sound
“It sounds so very good and yet in the hands of the Spierig Brothers, it has all the life of a vampire’s (non)heartbeat.” Killer Movie Reviews
“It’s a little bit silly…..but silly is fun. In fact, one wishes it were sillier still.” Austin Chronicle
Imagine you had this great idea for a movie when you were having a few drinks with your twin brother down the pub and then you wake up the next morning to to find that the Australian Film Finance Corporation say that they are going to bankroll you.
It would help of course if you were one of the Australian twins, the Spierig Brothers who have done this all before even if it was only such risible films as Undead and The Big Picture but at least they know one end of the camera from the other and, one day, there could be a good film in them.
Well this was a good idea at least – what if the World was really populated by vampires and they had to live off a tiny minority of human beings who were rapidly heading for extinction? There is no question that Michael and Peter Spierig have a lot of fun with the idea – especially in the opening sequences and the first quarter of Daybreakers where most of the humour centres on witty parodies of our much loved fast food shops and our insatiable desire for cafe latte.
Some entertainment is drawn out of society’s unending ability to make money out of adversity too as we see in a visually dramatic blood factory where fat cat vampire-in-chief Charles Bromley, the always good value Sam Neill, ruthlessly attempts , well, Capitalism.
Having just sat through Avatar with its similarly facile take on the capitalism versus the environment storyline, I was not expecting and neither did I get any original thoughts here – the “message” in this movie will only satisfy those who like their single issue politics coloured in with a crayon.
Sadly though, this movie never really gets anywhere – a bit like those other conversations down the pub when you forget what you began saying but you are much too drunk to stop talking even though you know you are making a tit of yourself.
Sorry boys but what started out as a good idea turns into a ludicrous mess by the time we reach the chaotic and really rather silly ending. My sympathies then for the estimable Mr Ethan Hawke who stars and adds his own particular grace to the film as a gentle, interestingly drawn hero who is not ashamed of his own fearfulness and panic under pressure. As with the film’s starting point, there was a good idea and an opportunity lost here. Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill too, both fine actors, struggle to give dignity to a script which soon runs into the soggy marshlands of B movie cliche.
There is enough blood and gore to satisfy anyone desperate for a few shots of exploding bodies and who aren’t too discriminating when it comes to less than convincing prosthetics in the decapitation department. The best blood comes served up in a rather delicious looking cup of oily Cafe Espresso…mmmm.
I am an optimist though about the talents of these twin directors who certainly have an eye and a natural cinematographic instinct and I can see why the Australian Film Finance Corporation supports them – maybe their next movie will actually sustain their interesting initial ideas right through to at least the middle of the film.
If you’re going down to the pub Michael and Peter, the drinks are on me – on second thoughts, let’s have another cup of that espresso before it congeals.