Daybreakers – what a bloody mess

daybreakers movie poster

Oh dear. And it seemed like such a good idea at the time. The vampires have taken over the world and established a night-time society, sadly seemingly stuck in much the same pattern of commerce as ours, but alas, they’ve literally drained their food supplies to the point of extinction (humans be warned: this could happen to you). It’s a race: to track down the last humans, to synthesise a blood replacement, or find a cure. At the end of the day, the future of the planet actually comes down to corporate greed. The leeches!

Daybreakers fails to deliver on its promise. Once the story starts and people start talking, it quickly turns into a bloody mess. Maybe that’s me looking for a shiny new take on vampirism when all that was ever on offer was just more schlock hanging off a neat idea. Nothing wrong with schlock, mind you; it’s just, I wanted more from this. I’m not sure why.

The Spierig brothers’ previous movie, Undead, was gloriously schlocky, even with aliens, and I loved it. So maybe I shouldn’t have expected this to be any different.

But, what the hell is with the bats? I haven’t seen such horrible effects since Hammer Horror (hurray, back online and makin’ movies!) dangled a stuffed one on wires and jigged its wings about. The bats, flitting about both night and day and glorying in swooping the camera, were inappropriate, cheap, tacky.

And where was the logic? Does not drinking human blood make vampires turn into primal bat-things, or doesn’t it? If vampires can survive on pigs’ blood a la Nick Knight, then why don’t they? Why does mixing blood with your coffee (just coffee, we presume, the only foodstuff on-screen – viscera notwithstanding) make it palatable? Why does Ethan (and his little heart-monitoring do-hickeys) not burn but Willem gets toasty scarred? Why does throwing gratuitous buckets of blood and hosting cannibalistic frenzies (really blurring the line between vampire and zombie, there, lads) make boys coo with glee?

And isn’t it a sad day, really, when you have to (presumably to secure funding) throw some weird-arse colour filter over your lens to try to disguise the fact you shot your movie in Australia, not the US of A. Location was hardly a factor in the plot, so why force the crap accents on otherwise wonderful actors? Admittedly, I was familiar with a hell of a lot of the scenery in Daybreakers, it being filmed around my former hometown, but I’m still scratching my head about the massive Moreton Bay fig having pride of place on a ridge somewhere in Nowheresville, USA.

Stupid lookouts who get surprised in daytime when they’re standing in the middle of a massive open space with 360-degree visibility; humans who simply must charge around in convoys at night; a seemingly endless stream of last-minute saves by the handy off-screen ally. And even in 2019 we’re still trying for the (presumably) heart shot with a crossbow. Oh God. And did I mention the bats??

I’m sorry, but ‘because it looks cool’ is not a sufficient answer.

So, Daybreakers for me is a B-grade vampire movie, maybe flitting down around the C+ level, which puts it on a par with the rest of the Aussie crop. Sigh.

[Addendum: What I liked about Daybreakers: the concept; the visualisation of the vampire society; the fact that being a vampire didn’t automatically make everyone a martial arts expert; no wire work; female lead Claudia Karvan not being made into some kind of sex-glamour-combat heroine (but she gets jumped twice, dude, so a little nous might’ve been nice); that the hero’s brother has the actual hero’s arc; Sam Neill]

Here, have some decent bats, care of a certain Nick Cave and his Birthday Party. And someone pass me a copy of Near Dark and a bottle of red. Cheers.

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Australian vampire movies

With Daybreakers about to hit the big screens, here’s a quick round-up of other Australian vampire movies:

Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, 1974. Directed by Bruce Beresford. Stars Barry Crocker, Barry Humphreys and Donald Pleasance.
: Barry, reprising his role from The Adventures of (1972), must save Dame Edna Everage from European Count von Plasma.

Bloodlust, 1992. Directed by Jon Hewitt and Richard Wolstencroft. Stars Jane Stuart Wallace, Kelly Chapman and Robert James O’Neill. Windhover Productions. [Videorecording: VHS]
: A low-budget vampire heist flick with cult appeal (banned in the UK) in which quasi vampires encounter gangsters and religious extremists on the streets of Melbourne.

Outback Vampires, 1987. Directed by Colin Eggleston. Stars Richard Morgan, Angela Kennedy and Brett Climo. Somserset Films. [Videorecording: VHS].
: A quasi-comic take along the lines of Rocky Horror Picture Show in which three travellers find themselves hosted by vampires in an isolated mansion near a decrepit outback town.

Queen of the Damned, 2002. Directed by Michael Rymer. Stars Aaliyah and Stuart Townsend. Los Angeles: Warner. [Videorecording: DVD].
: An American movie adapting two Anne Rice books, The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned. Shot in Victoria (substituting for the US and UK) with numerous Australians in the supporting cast. (My account of being an extra on the film is here.)

Thirst, 1979, directed by Roy Hardy. Stars Chantal Contouri and Shirley Cameron. FG Films. [Videorecording: DVD, Umbrella].
: The descendant of Elizabeth Bathory is seduced by a blood-drinking cult using brainwashing techniques, causing hallucinatory footage.

This list of movies is taken from a survey I made of Australian vampire stories published before 2007. It’s comprehensive but not complete. Additions are welcome.

Daybreakers, an Australian vampire movie with bite

I’ve been excited about the forthcoming vampire flick Daybreakers for quite some time, for a couple of reasons, but primarily because it’s made in Australia, including my old hometown of Brisbane, by the Brissie boys who made Undead (an extremely effective small-budget zombie movie, with SF elements). The plot about a world overtaken by vampires sounds engaging, and it stars, alongside Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe, some great local talent in Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill and Undead‘s Mungo McKay.

About.com’s Mark Harris has given Daybreakers four stars. His review is here, in which he says, “Daybreakers is a fresh and original take on vampire lore, using its genre trappings to convey an uncommonly conscious, allegorical reflection on society that touches upon class and racial conflict, the ethics of big business, politics, poverty, homelessness and the ravaging of natural resources.”

Got those bases covered, then. He also assures us there’s chompin’ and stakin’ aplenty.

According to IMDB, the movie’s due for release in Australia on January 21. Huzzah!