Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Spierig
|Produced by||Chris Brown
|Written by||Peter Spierig
|Music by||Christopher Gordon|
|Edited by||Matt Villa|
|Box office||$51.4 million|
Daybreakers is a 2009 Australian-American science fiction horror 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 mixed critical reception.
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It is 2019. A plague in 2009 caused by a mutant vampire bat has transformed most of the world's population into vampires, so that the world is no longer controlled by humans. Vampires do not age or die from natural causes, but are susceptible to sunlight or any ultraviolet light. The vampire world is active at night, and various innovations are made to adapt technology and architecture to their night-based cycle (e.g., UV-proof cars, underground railways and paths across the cities, and UV warnings).
The human population has plummeted, and the need for blood becomes desperate. Vampires deprived of blood for long periods degenerate into "subsiders," psychotic bat-like creatures with no memories whose only thought is the craving for blood. Humans are captured and harvested in laboratory farms while scientists research a synthetic blood substitute to satisfy vampires' blood hunger world-wide, while animal blood is also widely used.
Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is the head hematologist for the pharmaceutical company Bromley Marks, the largest supplier of human blood in the US. He and colleague Christopher Caruso (Vince Colosimo) are developing a blood substitute that can be generated as required. The urgency is underscored when 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. Edward and Chris carry out a hurried clinical trial of the latest revision on a soldier volunteer, which spectacularly and gruesomely fails when the soldier suffers painful side-effects and explodes.
Driving home, Dalton is momentarily distracted when he lights a cigarette and notices that his ears have become pointed (first sign of becoming a subsider), and accidentally runs another vehicle off the road. Checking on the occupants of the other vehicle, he is shot in the arm with a crossbow bolt, and learns they are humans. With police approaching, Dalton has them hide in his vehicle while he lies to the police about where they went. They part ways, 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 35th birthday (which he celebrates for the tenth time). 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 (he drinks animal blood instead), and his resentment towards Frankie for turning him into a vampire. The argument is cut short when a subsider invades Edward's house, forcing the brothers to team up and kill it. The subsequent police investigation reveals that the subsider was Edward's former local gardener whom Edward had seen only two weeks earlier.
The next morning, Audrey visits Edward at his home. She hands him a note with instructions for a meeting, and departs. Dalton goes drives the meeting, which is during the day, in his UV-protected Chrysler 300C and waits in the shade of a tree.
He is introduced to Lionel "Elvis" Cormac (Willem Dafoe), another human, but an Army SUV arrives with Frankie, who had followed Edward and intends to capture both Cormac and Audrey. Audrey knocks Frankie unconscious and the three flee from approaching soldiers in Edward's car (since Cormac's has been riddled with bullets). Once they escape, Cormac drives to the edge of a river, where he reveals that he was once a vampire and a professional mechanic, and one of the pioneers in creating UV protection covers for windows and cameras. He was cured when a car crash ejected him from his sun-proof vehicle into the river during daylight hours: Elvis burst into flame in the sunlight, but his life was saved when he landed in the river, having been exposed to the sun for the precise length of time required to turn him human again. Dalton agrees to help Elvis find a way to recreate the cure safely.
That night, Edward, Elvis and Audrey arrive at an old vineyard. Ed meets more human survivors, as well as Senator Turner (Jay Laga'aia), a vampire who secretly helping the colony develop a cure. A convoy of humans heading to Audrey's group is ambushed by vampire soldiers and captured. The soldiers find a radio and track the position of the vineyard, forcing Turner and the humans to flee. Audrey, Elvis and Edward stay behind so Edward can be cured. After some experimentation, Edward is able to reverse the vampire effect, curing himself, and feels sunlight for the first time in a decade. They depart in Cormac's 1978 Pontiac Trans Am and attempt to regroup with Turner and the other humans, only to find they are all dead.
One of the captured convoy, Alison (Isabel Lucas), wakes up in Charles's office. She is revealed to be his daughter, who had fled after the outbreak of the plague, not accepting her father as a vampire. Charles, wanting his daughter back, has Frankie forcibly turn her. She refuses to drink human blood, feeding on her own instead, and turns into a subsider. She is rounded up with a group of other subsiders in a chain gang and dragged into sunlight to burn to death. Witnessing Alison's death upsets Frankie, causing him to seek out his brother. Meanwhile, Bromley Marks has exhausted its blood reserves and the army arrives in the cities, destroying subsiders and vampires in poverty to establish order.
Edward, Elvis, and Audrey break into Christopher's home and ask him to help spread the cure. However, Christopher has finally discovered a viable blood substitute and is not interested in a cure, since the substitute will make him rich and powerful. He admits that he always hated Edward and being in his shadow and now wants to take his place. He calls in vampire soldiers, who capture Audrey while Elvis and Edward escape. They are found by Frankie, who agrees to help but is gradually becoming a subsider. He attacks Elvis, but drinking his blood turns Frankie human again, and they discover that feeding on a cured vampire is another method for vampires to turn back to humans.
Edward, trying to save Audrey, turns himself in. Charles reveals that he is not interested in any cure. As a human, he was suffering from incurable cancer, and after becoming a vampire, he turned Bromley Marks into a powerful company. He admits that he likes being immortal and plans to use the substitute world-wide to create a market monopoly, with remaining human blood becoming very expensive, since "there are always those who are willing to pay a little extra for the real thing". Edward taunts Charles for being a coward and having Frankie turn Alison instead of doing it himself. A provoked Charles bites Edward and becomes human again.
Edward leaves the Charles at the mercy of his former soldiers (nearly all now on the verge of becoming subsiders), which results in Charles being torn apart. 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 Christopher, who kills the few remaining cured soldiers to hide the evidence of the cure. As Chris turns his gun towards Edward and Audrey, Elvis arrives and kills Chris with a crossbow. Edward looks sadly to his dead brother, and Audrey, Edward and Elvis leave, turning back to watch the sun rise over the city.
The three survivors drive off into the horizon in Elvis's Pontiac, with Edward in a voice-over stating that they have a cure and can change others back. However, a subsider flies across the horizon, indicating that there may be much more trouble to come.
- Ethan Hawke as Edward Dalton. He is a 35-year-old hematologist who was turned by his brother Frankie, and started working for the newly formed Bromley Marks to work on a substitute soon after. He feels sympathy for humans, since he refused to be turned at the start of the plague, and refuses to drink human blood. He volunteers for the project to be turned back into a human and leads a revolution to return the human race back.
- Willem Dafoe as Lionel "Elvis" Cormac. A professional mechanic, he was one of the first in the city to create UV protection and special mounted cameras for driving during daytime. One time, while driving during the daytime, he was exhausted from not drinking blood, and this distracted him, and he crashed his black 1958 Chevy Bel Air into a fence, ejecting him into the sunshine; Elvis, in flames, fell into the water, turning him back human. He was found by Audrey.
- Sam Neill as Charles Bromley. The ruthless owner of Bromley Marks, the largest provider of blood in the U.S. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, before the plague, and given only few years to live, upsetting him and his daughter, whom he loved and wanted to live forever. He turned into a vampire to cure himself and wanted to live forever with his daughter, who left him. He has no interest into being human again, since he wants to use the substitute to become the richest man alive and for all eternity.
- Claudia Karvan as Audrey Bennett. A young woman who was educating at college during the plague. She hid on her old family vineyard, and refusing to become a vampire, she gathered humans and sheltered them along. She found Elvis and sheltered him and they lead the group and try to find the cure.
- Michael Dorman as Frankie Dalton. Edward's estranged younger brother, who turned his brother into a vampire since he was afraid of losing him. Frankie has an epiphany after turning back into a human and wants to help, but he is killed.
- Isabel Lucas as Alison Bromley. Charles's estranged daughter, turned into a vampire by Frankie. She rejected her father and turned into a subsider after eating her own blood. Her death caused Frankie to have an epiphany.
- Vince Colosimo as Christopher Caruso. He is Edward's partner and another hematologist, although much less ambitious than him. He discovered a blood substitute, and then refused to be human again, since the substitute would make him a very powerful man.
- Jay Laga'aia as Senator Turner. Another vampire who secretly harbors sympathies with humans and wants to help the human race.
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" from 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.
Rotten Tomatoes givesvthe film a 67% rating based on reviews from 141 critics, with the site's consensus stating: "Though it arrives during an unfortunate glut of vampire movies, Daybreakers offers enough dark sci-fi thrills -- and enough of a unique twist on the genre -- to satisfy filmgoers." As well as a weighted average score of 57 out of 100 on Metacritic (indicating "mixed or average reviews") based on 31 reviews.
Variety gave the film a mixed 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.[needs update]
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