In 2019, 10 years after the outbreak of a mysterious infection, most of the human race have become vampires. The remaining 5% of the human population are either on the run or kept by the vampires in Matrix style facilities as living blood banks. Faced with a shortage of blood that will lead to the end of the vampire race, vampire scientists are under pressure to produce a blood substitute that may allow humans and vampires to live side by side.

Rushing forward testing of an experimental product is never a good idea and it seems that vampires are no exception to this rule. After failed experiments on vampires, a vampire doctor joins forces with a group of humans and vampires to search for a cure to vampirism. The transition from blood substitute to vampire cure is a bit of a leap that is never really addressed. It is just taken for granted that there is a cure and that this doctor can find it and once he starts working on it everyone behaves just as if this is how things have always been. This plot raises the interesting point that most of the vampires wouldn’t want to be cured even if they could be after all they are essentially immortal and don’t get sick as long as they have blood to drink.

What could possibly go wrong? You just had to ask...
What could possibly go wrong? You just had to ask…

A lot of development seems to have happened in just 10 years since what was essentially the end of the world. There are plenty of successful vampire companies and science organisations. There is a vampire police force and vampire schools, hospitals, doctors etc. Underground walkways have been created to allow travel during the day and cars have been fitted with loads of high tech gadgets to allow them to be driven when you can’t see out of the windows. Granted some these things already exist today and the people running them just went from being human to vampire and naturally adjusted existing infrastructure and technology to their new needs. But it does occasionally feel that things have progressed too well too quickly given that civilisation as we know it came to an abrupt end just 10 years previously.

On one hand it is nice to see an “end of life as we know it” scenario play out where the whole world doesn’t completely go to crap (as long as you are a vampire and like it). But unfortunately it doesn’t seem that believable. If the film was set further into the future then the well established vampire industries etc would seem more believable. But then the film would lose one of its other defining characteristics; the youth of the vampires. These are not the jaded ancient vampire lords of Dracula or an Anne Rice novel but all appeared around the same time and can remember when they and their family and friends were all human. This leads to some interesting conflicts for some of the characters and motivates some of the main decisions that drive the plot.

Having said that, most of the vampires seem to be somewhat divorced from any kinship with humans and while they don’t necessarily want to kill all humans, are more than happy to keep them all locked away so that they can harvest their blood. One of the reasons that there seems to be a shortage of human blood to go around is that vampires keep on turning people into more vampires rather than just taking some of their blood. Other than that the blood shortage doesn’t really get much of an explanation. Sure, “wild” humans are dying out but the big blood companies and science organisations seem to have a decent supply and breeding more shouldn’t be a problem given the level of science and technology they seem to possess.

daybreakers_farming
Where all the discerning vamps go to get their blood

Another nice departure from the more traditional vampire lore is that there is very little of the usual gratuitous over indulgence in sex and sadism that always seems to accompany stories that contain an element of ancient vampire lore. The vampires here exploit and hunt humans for sure sure but, with a few exceptions, the majority only do it for practical reasons and are perfectly happy with the idea of replacing human blood in their diet if they can. At least that is what we are lead to believe but actually we only find out about the desires of a few members of very extreme segments of the population.

A lot of thought has gone into the design of the look of the vampire run world. Everything is very clean and sharp and brightly lit, compensating for the fact that almost all vampire activity takes place during the night. There are not a lot of colours and everything is quite clinical. The human world contrasts nicely with more natural colours and lighting. I guess this is natural given that the vamps only come out at night but it is a nice way of differentiating between the two worlds.

Sometimes the humans in this film are egregiously stupid. They do a lot of travelling at night when there is no apparent reason for it and they would be much safer travelling during the day. In fact in one scene, 2 humans are discussing how much safer it is during daylight while unnecessarily travelling during the night time. When one vehicle in a convoy is disabled, everyone stops, gets out and hangs around instead of picking up the stranded people and carrying on. Even once the realise that they have been ambushed they don’t do the sensible thing and try to flee.

Daybreakers_fight
It just isn’t a climax until body parts start flying through the air

At the end the main characters don’t take advantage of the fact that they have discovered an easy solution to the vampire problem opting instead for a succession of clichés; the noble sacrifice, the saviour in the nick of time and driving off into the sunsetrise. The climactic human vs vampire battle though is sufficiently over the top with gore and tongue in cheek humour that it almost excuses the fact that there was ultimately no reason for it to happen at all.

It does feel a little bit like, about 3/4 of the way through the story, the writers suddenly ran out of ideas and decided to just arbitrarily kill off most of the characters and substitute any real resolution with a massive stylised bloodbath. Overall however, it is an interesting take on the well worn vampire genre that often but by no means always manages to engage and entertain.

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