Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig
Over the years several pairs of brothers have directed high-grossing, successful Hollywood films. Notable duos include the Cohen’s, the Wachowski’s, the Hughes’ and the Farrelly’s. However, the Spierig brothers from Australia will never, ever be on that list.
They are responsible for the abysmal mess entitled Daybreakers, the latest film to emerge from the enormously annoying vampire/zombie craze that’s been sweeping North America for almost two years now. Despite an impressive cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill, the movie never delivers on its promise to entertain and terrify, like the taglines on its early posters seemed to indicate.
No, instead it just crashes and burns, like so many films of its genre have done before. Unfortunately I’m a gullible person, easily lured to the cinema by attractive and shiny trailers that feature star-studded casts. I keep hoping that great trailers will translate into great movies, but like the lottery, we keep playing in the hopes of winning; and we never do.
Daybreakers has a very simple premise (a dwindling human population and a rising vampire population means less and less available blood for the latter), and it even bills itself as a low-budget film bent on entertaining audiences the same way B movies do. Yet, the two most important aspects the movie should be focusing on (gore and humor) are surprisingly low in supply. Dafoe’s character (Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac), one of the last humans fighting for survival and equipped with a crossbow, should be blowing people away left and right, as well as making wise cracks a la Ash from Army of Darkness, but all we get from him is a few instances of monotonous combat and the worst one-liners you can imagine. The kind that don’t belong in a B-movie, but rather in something sadder and lower in budget, if such a thing even exists.
Fortunately Hawke’s character (Edward Dalton), a brilliant scientist looking for a human blood substitute, is significantly less one-dimensional than Dafoe’s, although it’s still extremely painful listening to what he has to say. When both characters find each other and interact it’s hard not to cringe, especially when Dafoe explains to Hawke that the feeling of sunshine on one’s skin is akin to being like “a piece of fried chicken”. Many such one-liners yielded exactly zero laughs from the audience at the cinema that night, and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to want to get up and throw something at the projector behind me, in the hopes of smashing it to pieces and therefore saving whatever was left of my brain. Oddly enough the slow motion scenes, which will undoubtedly elicit numerous comparisons to The Matrix, produced the most laughter, but the kind Nelson from The Simpsons would dish out.
It’s true, I have little or no fascination for the vampire film genre, but I was willing to give Daybreakers a chance because it promised not to take itself and its premise seriously. In attempting to do so, it totally missed the mark and landed somewhere between Blade 3 and Dracula 2000. I would have appreciated more vulgarity and recklessness from Dafoe and Hawke, two of my all-time favorite actors, but their desire to participate in such an awful movie will make me even more skeptical of their next roles.
Daybreakers had been in post-production since late 2007 but in all honesty, Lionsgate should have left it on the shelf and saved us all a lot of grief and frustration. Its movies like this that make us look forward to the release of the upcoming Tooth Fairy, starring Dwayne Johnson.
– Myles Dolphin