Vampires are in right now. They have suddenly become fashionable and sought after. You could say that this was probably caused by a bunch of very poorly written “wish fulfillment” novels that drove teenage girls crazy. But Twilight novels seem to be just the most recent manifestation of a cultural trend that we could have observed in literature and movies in the last decade or so. A trend seeking to romanticize the vampire. To take what was once a monster and a menace, and turn it into a dark, brooding, tragic hero. I’m not sure who started it, but I think we can collectively point a finger at Ann Rice and blame her for being on of the precursors. When the Interview with the Vampire hit book shelves and then later the movie theaters people fell in love with the idea of using vampires as brooding protagonists, carrying baggage of immortality and bestial hunger within them. Frankly it was a great idea. It worked because vampires were monsters – their humanity being only a temporary state of mind – one they could not hold on to forever. But the seed was planted, and writers ran with it. Twilight was just a distillation of that idea: all of the angst and brooding, with none of the horror. The pussification of a vampire image taken to it’s utmost extreme. And apparently it worked very well – teenage girls can’t seem to get enough of it.
Daybreakers is a vampire movie released in the midst of Twilight craze so you would expect it to be a romance but it is not. Surprisingly it refuses to ride the wave created by the teen-angst novels and instead takes the genre back to its roots. I’m serious about this – you haven’t seen vampires this “vampirey” in years. They don’t reflect in mirrors, they burn up in the sun, they don’t have a pulse, they explode when staked through the heart and if they don’t get their blood fix regularly they start turning into bizarre bat monsters reminiscent of Nosferatu. This movie has none of that emo crap: no brooding looks, no pregnant sighs, no gazing into each others eyes.
The plot of the movie is nothing short of brilliant. It inverts the usual formula in which vampires are few and far between, and tend to hide amongst their prey passing for normal humans. Now, there is a reason why they do that: vampires are predatory beasts. They need to hunt highly intelligent, and quite dangerous prey every night. When you are a vampire, you want to have a varied and plentiful food supply close at hand, but you do not want your food to become aware of you, because they could easily band together and turn the tables, by hunting you during the day when you are vulnerable. You don’t want to many other vampires moving into your neighborhood because they will thin out your heard, and there is a greater chance that humans will catch on and expose you all.
But what happens if the population of vampires outgrows that of mortal humans? Good news is that when you outnumber your prey, you no longer need to hide. The problem is that now you have a lot of hungry vampires and a dwindling food stock. Food stock that has guns, and does not want to part with their blood. So what do you do? You round the remaining population, rack them up and farm them for blood as long as they are alive:
The problem with farming humans is that they get old and die rather quickly. Breeding them is time consuming and expensive: babies need special facilities and they won’t produce blood at full capacity of a full grown adult for years. This is a problem that the vampire scientists try to solve by producing a synthetic blood substitute. Edward, the protagonist, is the chief researcher working on that very project.
He views human blood farms as necessary evil and hopes that finding an alternative food source will put an end to it. What he finds however is even better. He meets an ex-vampire who stumbled upon a cure, but was unable to replicate it. Edward’s employers however do not want to hear about the cure. They like being vampires, and they are making way to much money selling blood, and services (such as light-proofing houses and cars) to other vampires to give it all up.
It’s a great idea and very good execution. The movie manages to introduce this rather complex setting, develop the main characters, introduce a conflict and neatly wrap it up in 98 minutes. And it’s not like they were rushing it either. It’s not all action all the time. The movie has time for poignant conversations and short pauses during which they show us sprawling vistas of this new, strange world. It is also chock full of delightful little details. There are fun and interesting signs, billboards and advertisements everywhere that give you some idea about the vampire life style. Also, since vampires do not have reflections, all the mirrors in the movie are replaced by video monitors:
Personally, I wasn’t really thrilled with the cure itself. They never really explained how and why it worked and it seemed a bit too convenient. But, then again, they didn’t explain why and how vampirism worked – no one ever does. So in a way it worked – and they were pretty consistent about it. It works within the setting, and I guess that’s all that matters.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is this: it’s a good movie and you should watch it. Could it have been better? Sure. The setting itself is incredibly original and awesome at the same time. In the 98 minutes the movie barely scratches the surface of what could be done with this concept. There is enough coll ideas there for several movies, or a full length TV series. We never really get to meet that many humans, hear their stories and reasons for refusing to become vampires. We never really get to see what regular, average vampire thinks about issues such as blood shortage, human farming and etc. We only marginally see how vampirism can tear families apart and how immortals cope with their close ones refusing to be turned. There is a lot of interesting content there which could be expanded upon. But instead of short-changing itself, the movie tells a succinct story with a punch. It is not terribly deep or reflective but it is entertaining and interesting. It works.