Finally a vampire movie we can sink our teeth into (um… sorry!). The antidote to doe-eyed teenage vamps snogging each other, Daybreakers puts the vampire genre right back where it ought to be: replete with fangs, blood, viscera and scares. Set ten short years into the future when 95% of the population has succumbed to a vampire virus, the remaining human population are captured and placed into blood farms. In an astonishingly inexplicable oversight, the lack of any active breeding programme means that human livestock numbers are dwindling and so too then are the corresponding vamp snacks. Enter Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), haematologist and reluctant jugular sucker who's frantically attempting to develop a blood substitute.

I first encountered The Spierig Brothers™ (that's Peter and Michael to their folks) at the Brisbane International Film Festival in 2003 where they presented their debut feature, Undead; a no-budget zombie movie which looked like it had a budget and spun the zombie genre into some new territory. During the post presentation Q&A session, the writer/director/producers stated emphatically that (despite their display of obvious talent and passion) they never ever wanted to make a movie for nothing again. Apparently they meant what they said because it's now seven long years later and guess what? Daybreakers has a budget with commensurate star power to match! Clearly somebody with some loose change liked what they saw in Undead.

There's a lot of fun to be had with Daybreakers on the proviso that you can overlook its many logical flaws, of which the most glaringly obvious one is the above mentioned lack of a human breeding (or cloning) programme. And there are a number of lesser inconsistencies too such as how can a viral (i.e. pathological) infection imbue the inflicted individual with invisible (i.e. supernatural) reflections? But what the film lacks in feasible detail it makes up for in unique and interesting ideas. This was the strength of Undead and it is also the strength here.

Despite its international cast and sizeable budget, the Spierigs maintain a distinctively Australian flavour, mixing the international star power of Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe with local talent such as Claudia Karvan, Vince Collosimo and Playschool presenter, Jay Laga'aia. And you can put the steering columns on the left hand side but there's no mistaking those indubitable Aussie landscapes.

Performances by all are on par, no more no less, but this is entirely commensurate with this kind of film - this is hardly Kramer vs Kramer. After a promising start, the all important splatter does dry up a bit but it's back on form by the time the finale rolls around; and there is an anti-corporation subtext running throughout but importantly it never dominates the action or vampire lore.

Daybreakers is that one step closer to greatness from the work they did with Undead but the Spierigs have a few steps yet to take. Still, there are sufficient commendable attributes on display here to hold us over until their next production - let's hope we don't have to wait another seven years.
Stuart Jamieson

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