Wednesday, August 18, 2010

DVD Review: Daybreakers (by Dave Machado)

This weekend marks the debut of Vampires Suck, the latest movie from the makers of Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans.  I've only seen bits and pieces of these movies but I've seen enough to know that they are, for lack of a better term, bad.  Not only are they bad in the sense that you should get no joy from watching it, they are also bad for movies in general.  Now I know that these movies have made less and less money as the audience luckily gets more and more skeptical, so simply continuing to pick on these movies is like picking on me when I was in 5th grade (the out of shape fat kid).  So until they call these movies "Confused Head Tilt Reaction Shots Due To Random Pop Culture Gags", I will try to pretend they no longer exist.  Having said that, I'd like to take now discuss Daybreakers, an actual vampire movie I saw recently thanks to Netflix that I think deserves a bigger audience than it originally received.

Daybreakers is a welcome entry to the collection of modern vampire myths. The story takes place in the not too distant future where vampires have become the dominant species and have either killed or turned most humans, causing their food source to be nearing extinction.  Corporations have sprung up for the rich where they will "farm" humans and keep them in cool futuristic looking pods (my favorite kind of pod) and basically drain the humans slowly enough so they last for years.  The less fortunate vampires who can't afford such luxuries begin to mutate when they are no longer able to drink human blood.  It may start as a simple elongating of the ears, but the vampires rapidly begin to mutate into a new form of crazed vampire that is more impulsive bat than human.  In an effort to curb the growing issue of these "super vampires", the corporate higher ups are trying to create a synthetic clone for human blood that will allow the vampire race to live long after the last drop of human blood has been sucked up.  For the humans that are still alive and on the run, they have a better idea.  What if instead of a substitute for human blood, they could instead develop a cure for the vampire disease itself?  

The one thing that struck me with Daybreakers is how well it sets up the world.  There is very little verbal exposition and the movie is able to tell a lot through visual clues.  I'm not saying using exposition is a lazy device for films.  I know a lot of people took issue with how much of it was used in Inception but I think that is an unfair claim.  Inception was dropping you into a world you've never seen before and had nothing to really pull from.  As a viewer of Daybreakers however, we are dropped into a world that is more or less familiar, the post-apocalyptic/vampire world.  We sort of know the rules and so the movie can spend less time going over what a vampire is and instead move the plot forward.  Speaking of movement, this film speeds along at a fairly constant pace and never seems to get bogged down or stuck in a boring subplot.

More importantly though, it wouldn't be a good vampire movie without some good old fashioned gore.  Luckily, Daybreakers does not disappoint in this department.  It's not an over-the-top gorefest but relies more on action/chase scenes than straight-up blood and guts.  But when the scene calls for it, there is no skimping on the carnage.  If you've ever seen a George A. Romero movie, you know that in most of his zombie films, there is always a scene I like to refer to as the "Bloody Mayhem" scene in which the zombies overrun the area and are filmed feasting in all their glory.  Daybreakers builds to this type of scene as well and I felt it was handled with the same fantastic touch that Romero himself gives those scenes.  

The only negative thing I could say about Daybreakers is that is does lay on the metaphors a bit thick at times (another comparison to Romero) but it's not too distracting.  We can all see the layers of social injustice being discussed here (rich vs. poor, foreigners vs. scared locals, science vs. faith, etc...), but it seems the filmmakers make an effort to really make sure you get it.  It doesn't even come close to ruining the experience of the movie, but in hindsight I felt it's worth pointing out.  Of course, I'd much rather have a horror movie with too much to say than nothing at all.  So despite all of that, if you are in the mood for a great modern vampire story, then I hope you give Daybreakers a shot.  Just make sure you don't see Vampires Suck...

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