An interesting attempt to create a vampire “culture” while adhering to vampire lore, Daybreakers is nonetheless a disappointment despite some pretty good ideas.
The movie cleverly examines a world where vampires are at the top of the food chain and humans a rung below. Unfortunately, the vampire race is immediately presented as being in danger. Their main source of food, human blood, is rapidly running out and vampire scientist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) tries to find an “artificial” blood which could be used to feed the vampire culture’s voracious appetite while keeping humans alive. Dalton, as presented, is a conflicted character. While being a vampire, it is clear he has sympathy towards humans and realizes the vampire culture is corrupt and in decline. Later in the film, we also discover that he longs to return to his own humanity.
The vampire culture within the film is well thought through. The vampires drive cars that offer protection from the daylight and they live in appropriately dark abodes. Child vampires and vagrants run along the streets, their souls obviously much older than their outward appearances. All long for blood, and the deprivation of their source of food turns these vampires into hideous creatures who cannot be controlled.
Into this milieu Dalton finds Lionel Cormac (Willem Dafoe), a man who was a vampire yet somehow was able to turn back to human. It is this search for the cure to vampirism that forms the bulk of the second half of the film.
The movie’s main problem, however, is that it was clearly intended to be a much longer, much more detailed work than what we ultimately see on the screen. Indeed, watching Daybreakers is like reading a CliffsNotes version of the same…so many characters and situations are thrown at you and dealt with so quickly that you can’t help but wonder how much of the original screenplay was left behind or on the cutting room floor.
I suspect that the original concept and story was much better fleshed out. Had the film been, say, a half hour or so longer and allowed more time for story development, we might have felt more sympathy for some of the characters and their fates (whether good or bad). Instead, we have a film that feels like it rushes through what it wants to present to us and never allows us the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves into what we’re seeing before reaching the inevitable end.