Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Spierig
|Produced by||Chris Brown
|Written by||Peter Spierig
|Music by||Christopher Gordon|
|Editing by||Matt Villa|
Pictures in Paradise
Film Finance Corporation Australia
Pacific Film & Television Commission
|Running time||98 minutes|
|Budget||$US 20 million|
|Box office||$US 51,416,464|
Daybreakers is a 2009 science-fiction thriller film written and directed by Australian filmmakers Michael and Peter Spierig. The film takes place in a futuristic world overrun by vampires. A vampiric corporation sets out to capture and farm the remaining humans while researching a blood substitute. Lead vampire hematologist Edward Dalton's (Ethan Hawke) work is interrupted by human survivors led by former vampire "Elvis" (Willem Dafoe), who has a cure that can save the human species.
Daybreakers premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was released in the United Kingdom on 6 January 2010 and in North America on 8 January 2010. The film grossed over $US50 million and received positive critical reception.
In 2009, a plague caused by a vampire bat has transformed most of the world's population into vampires. This event formed a world completely dominated by vampires. As vampires are incapable of aging or dying, but are unprotected against the sunlight or any ultraviolet light, the entire vampire world is active at night. Human numbers quickly dwindle and the need for blood becomes desperate, while a global war rages between the surviving humans and vampires. When deprived of blood for extended periods, vampires degenerate into "subsiders," psychotic bat-like creatures. Humans are captured and harvested in laboratory farms while scientists research a synthetic blood substitute to satisfy vampires' blood hunger.
In 2019, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is the head hematologist for the pharmaceutical company Bromley Marks, the largest supplier of human blood in the United States. Along with fellow hematologist Chris Caruso (Vince Colosimo), Dalton is in the process of developing a substitute to bolster dwindling blood supplies. The need is underscored after Dalton's boss, company owner Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), reveals that the estimated human population is down to 5%, and national blood supplies will not last more than a month. Faced with this knowledge, Edward and Chris carry out a hasty clinical trial of the latest revision, which is a spectacularly gruesome failure.
On the drive home, Dalton becomes momentarily distracted and accidentally runs another vehicle off the road. When he checks on the occupants of the other vehicle he is shot in the arm by a crossbow shot, and quickly discovers they are humans. With police approaching, Dalton convinces the humans to hide in his vehicle and then tells police that the occupants of the other vehicle fled. The humans then leave, but not before their leader, Audrey (Claudia Karvan), learns Edward's name and occupation from the ID badge on his jacket.
At home, Edward is surprised by his estranged brother Frankie (Michael Dorman), a soldier in the human-hunting Vampire Army who has returned for Edward's birthday. Frankie's gift of a bottle of pure human blood re-ignites a long-standing argument over Edward's sympathies towards humans, his refusal to drink human blood, and his resentment towards Frankie for turning him into a vampire. The argument is cut short when a subsider invades Edwards house, forcing the brothers to team up and kill it.
The following morning, Audrey arrives at Edward's home, giving him a note with instructions for a meet before departing. After some consideration Dalton goes to the meeting location, and is introduced to Lionel "Elvis" Cormac (Willem Dafoe), another human. Before Elvis can explain himself they are interrupted by Frankie, who followed Edward and intends to capture both Cormac and Audrey. Audrey knocks Frankie unconscious and the three make their escape, fleeing from approaching soldiers in Edward's car. Once they escape, Cormac drives to the edge of a river, where he reveals that he was once a vampire, but was cured when a car crash ejected him from his sun-proof vehicle into the river during daylight hours. He asks Dalton to help find a way to recreate the cure safely; Dalton agrees.
That night, Ed arrives with Elvis and Audrey at an old vineyard. Ed meets with the other human survivors, as well as Senator Turner (Jay Laga'aia), a vampire who secretly helps the colony to find a cure. While a convoy of humans is heading to Audrey's group, they are ambushed by vampire soldiers, and captured. One soldier finds a radio and the soldiers track the position of the vineyard, forcing the humans there to flee. Audrey, Elvis and Ed stay behind so Ed can be turned back. After some experimentation, Edward is able to reverse the vampire effect, curing himself.
One of the captured convoy inhabitants is Alison (Isabel Lucas), who wakes up in Charles' office. She is revealed to be his daughter, who ran away after the outbreak of the plague, not accepting her father as a vampire. Charles, wanting to have his daughter back, has Frankie forcibly turn her. She refuses to drink human blood, feeding on her own instead - and thus begins to turn into a subsider. She is rounded up with a group of the creatures in a chain gang and dragged into sunlight to burn to death. Witnessing Alison's death upsets Frankie and he seeks out his brother. Meanwhile, Bromley Marks has exhausted their reserves of blood, and the army arrives in the cities, destroying subsiders to control the population.
Edward, Elvis, and Audrey break into Chris' home and ask him to help spread the cure. However, Chris has finally discovered a viable blood substitute and does not want there to be a cure. He calls in vampire soldiers, who capture Audrey while Elvis and Edward escape into hiding. They are found by Frankie, who agrees to help but is gradually becoming a subsider. He attacks Elvis and they discover that feeding on a former vampire is another method for vampires to turn back to humans.
Edward, trying to save Audrey, turns himself in and goads Charles into attacking him; Charles feasts on Edward's blood, effectively curing his own vampirism. Edward uses the now-human Charles to cure a group of soldiers starting to experience subsider aggression (the soldiers end up ripping Charles up alive). Edward and Audrey, cornered by more soldiers, are rescued when Frankie sacrifices himself. This sparks a feeding frenzy that leaves all of the soldiers dead or cured. They are confronted by Chris, who kills the few remaining cured soldiers to hide the evidence of the cure. Just as Chris points his gun at him, Elvis arrives and shoots him in the chest with a crossbow. Edward looks sadly to his dead brother, and Audrey, Edward and Elvis turn back and watch the sun rise on the city.
The three survivors then drive away into the horizon, with a voice-over by Edward stating that they have a cure and can change others back. Just before the screen turns to black however a subsider is seen flying in the sky howling.
- Ethan Hawke as Edward Dalton
- Willem Dafoe as Lionel "Elvis" Cormac
- Sam Neill as Charles Bromley
- Claudia Karvan as Audrey Bennett
- Michael Dorman as Frankie Dalton
- Isabel Lucas as Alison Bromley
- Vince Colosimo as Christopher Caruso
- Robyn Moore as Forensic Investigator Simms
- Jay Laga'aia as Senator Turner
- Tyson Bradly as Core Vampire Soldier
In November 2004, Lionsgate acquired the script to Daybreakers, written by Peter and Michael Spierig. The brothers, who directed Undead (2003), were attached to direct Daybreakers. In September 2006, the brothers received financing from Film Finance Corporation Australia, with production set to take place in Queensland. In May 2007, actor Ethan Hawke was cast into the lead role. Later in the month, actor Sam Neill joined the cast as the main antagonist. Daybreakers began filming on the Gold Coast at Warner Bros. Movie World studios and in Brisbane on 16 July 2007. The production budget was $US21 million, with the State Government contributing $US1 million to the filmmakers. Principal photography was completed on schedule in September 2007, with reshoots following to extend key sequences.
Weta Workshop created the creature effects for Daybreakers. The Spierig brothers wanted the vampires in the film to have a classical aesthetic to them while feeling like a more contemporary interpretation. After experimenting with complex makeup designs, they decided that a more minimalistic approach to makeup had a more powerful effect.
Hawke was initially hesitant to join the production as he was "not a big fan" of genre films. He ultimately accepted the role as Edward after deciding the story felt "different" to that of a typical B movie. Hawke described the film as an allegory of man's pacing with natural resources, "We're eating our own resources so people are trying to come up with blood substitutes, trying to get us off of foreign humans." The actor also said that despite the serious allegory, the film was "low art" and "completely unpretentious and silly".
Daybreakers premiered on 11 September 2009 at the 34th Annual Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released on 6 January 2010 in the UK and Ireland, 8 January 2010 in North America, and 4 February 2010 in Australia.
The film currently holds a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 132 reviews, as well as a weighted average score of 57 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 31 reviews. Variety gave the film a mixed to positive review stating the film had a "cold, steely blue, black and gray 'Matrix'-y look" going on to say Daybreakers "emerges as a competent but routine chase thriller that lacks attention-getting dialogue, unique characters or memorable setpieces that might make it a genre keeper rather than a polished time-filler." Rolling Stone gave the film two and a half out of four stars and called the film a B movie and a "nifty genre piece". Roger Ebert also gave the film two and a half stars stating the "intriguing premise ... ends as so many movies do these days, with fierce fights and bloodshed." Richard Roeper gave the film a B+ and called it "a bloody good time."
As of October 2010, the box gross was US$51,416,464. In its opening weekend in the United States, Daybreakers opened at #4 behind Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel with $15,146,692 in 2,523 theaters, averaging $6,003 per theater.
Daybreakers was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on 11 May 2010 and in the United Kingdom on 31 May 2010. The UK DVD copy was rated as an 18 instead of the original 15 rating that was used for cinema release. A 3D Blu-ray version of the film was released in November 2011.[dated info]
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