Daybreakers is an Often Overlooked But Amazing Vampire Film
Daybreakers explores one of the most important reasons why vampires (if they were real) are often depicted as very few in number compared to the rest of the human race: food ratio. In this film, a world controlled by vampires is facing its most terrible crisis –with the human population being driven close to extinction, where else would vampires be able to drink blood? It is an amazing premise, and shows us the collapse of a powerful and highly advanced society of vampires in a way that only this movie can.
Among Vampires, a Hematologist is King
The film centers on Edward Dalton (played by Ethan Hawke –who still acts like his character from Gattaca) who is a vampire and a hematologist trying to figure out a way to create a viable form of synthesized blood. As it turns out, Dalton’s entire society is composed of vampires. In this world, vampirism originated from a virus. The first few vampires were not stopped in time and the human population quickly turned into vampires. Now the entire global structure is designed for keeping the vampires safe from sunlight and UV light while still allowing for continued trade, commerce, politics, etc.
It is quickly revealed however, that their main food source: humans. Are about to go extinct, while some vampires subsist on drinking animal blood (like Edward, who does so out of sympathy for humans), the rest of the vampire society needs it. If a vampire does not drink blood, they will slowly turn into a feral “Subsider”.
When Dalton runs into a small pocket of human survivors, led by ‘Elvis’ who is a former vampire that discovered the cure to vampirism, he decides to help them out, hoping that this world of vampires can still be saved.
Eventually, Dalton succeeds in replicating the conditions that cured Elvis. And now that Dalton is human once again, he goes back to the vampire city in order to find a way to get his associates to help him distribute it. Things do not go according to plan however, as Dalton quickly learns that some vampires do not even want a cure, and worse, some of them want to destroy Dalton’s work as a cure would get in the way of their own ambitions.
Daybreakers touches upon a lot of nice little details about how a vampire society can function in a world that has plenty of sunlight. Their cars are heavily modded with large covers on windows that block out the sun (they have very narrow view slits, but since they have excellent vision and reflexes, this is all they need to drive properly). Lots of transportation is done through underground tunnels, pure human blood is a highly coveted luxury item, etc.
Despite their powers, the vampires in this movie are still very, very human in terms of behavior and weakness. Some are greedy, shortsighted, bigoted, and many other things. And it is these very human attitudes that have put their entire world in danger. It’s a mirror to many real world decisions where the greater good is set aside for the personal gains of a few greedy individuals. Be it with wars, the ecology, economy or some other thing, entire civilizations can really suffer badly just because of an individual or two. In the case of Daybreakers, the vampires have almost wiped out the human race and are quickly destroying themselves from within and its all thanks to a few of the movie’s antagonists.
The Perfect Cure
One particular film element that we loved in Daybreakers is the depiction of a vampire cure. How it is done is already amazing –and makes full use of one the mythology’s most important elements, sunlight. Casting Willem Dafoe as an ex-vampire who (literally) accidentally discovered the cure is a stroke of genius as the actor lends a strong sense of gravitas to the role. But more than that, the big twist at the ending –which reveals the true scope of the cure, works amazingly well as a narrative tool. As it turns out, the blood of a cured vampire also serves as a cure too. This creates a chain of bloodsucking among the enemy vampire troops as one batch gets turned into humans, the next squad instinctively attacks them who then gets cured too. Visually, it’s a gory mess to watch, but it feels satisfying as well.