Pop Culture at its Best

TIFF ’09: Daybreakers

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Daybreakers

Directed by Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig

In 2003 the twin Australian filmmakers, The Spierig Brothers, unleashed the no-budget, frenetic, zombie opus titled Undead onto the world. Now after a six year hiatus, they have finally returned with the world premiere of their new movie Daybreakers, at TIFF’s Midnight Madness. Daybreakers tackles the vampire genre with all of the energy and enthusiasm shown in Undead, but now with a bigger budget, a more revered cast, and a better script.

The vampire film has become almost as tired as the zombie film, but with even greater presence in the mainstream. It’s saturated with things like Twilight and True Blood, taking the terrifying Draculas and Nosferatus, and transforming them into pop icons like Edward Cullen. Now the Spierig bothers are breathing some new life into the vampire genre with their extremely inventive second feature.

daybreakers

In this world, power has shifted into the hands of the vampires, driving the few remaining free humans into hiding. The rest are locked in massive facilities designed for the farming of blood, but the supply is growing low. Ethan Hawke (Gattaca, Reality Bites) plays a human-sympathizing vampire scientist, working to try and discover a blood substitue to be manufactured by the blood farming corporation controlled by vampire Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Event Horizon). When the blood supply is estimated to run out in under a month, chaos breaks out, and Hawke’s character encounters a band of renegade humans, including Willem Dafoe (Boondock Saints, Spider-Man), who aspire to change everything.

The result is awesome. Daybreakers is fast, loud, atmospheric, funny, and at times very scary. The gore is plentiful, as are the explosions.  The take on vampirisim is very fresh and clever. As the vampires have taken over society entirely, they have developed lots of neat gadgets to make their living easier, and the Spierig’s have explored this concept well.  Neill is exceptionally creepy as the vampire executive, matching the rest of the appropriotely exagerrated performances.  There is a mix of practical effects and CGI, and some of the CGI is a bit on the cheesey side, but this is completely forgivable when you discover the Spierig brothers ran out of money and did much of the effects themselves. After realizing the twins put a hand into almost every aspect of their filmmaking, you know it is a work of love.

Of what I have seen so far at Midnight Madness, Daybreakers has been the most fun and exciting. It will receive a worthy theatrical release from Lionsgate in January 2010, and I implore you to see it then.

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