Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Spierig
|Produced by||Chris Brown
|Written by||Peter Spierig
|Music by||Christopher Gordon|
|Editing by||Matt Villa|
|Release date(s)||September 11, 2009(TIFF)
January 8, 2010
February 4, 2010 (Australia)
|Running time||98 minutes|
Daybreakers is a 2010 science fiction vampire horror-thriller film written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. The film stars Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill. Daybreakers was released in the United Kingdom on January 6, 2010 and in North America on January 8, 2010.
In 2019, a pandemic disease has turned most of the world’s population into vampires. As human numbers dwindle, the need for blood becomes desperate. When deprived of blood consummation for extended periods, vampires degenerate into subsiders, aggressive bat-like creatures. Humans are captured and harvested in laboratory farms while scientists research a synthetic blood substitute. The main supplier of blood in the U.S. is the pharmaceutical company Bromley Marks, run by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) and Chris Caruso (Vince Colosimo) are hematologists working on the blood substitute. Under pressure from Charles, they try multiple versions in a series of failing clinical trials. Edward secretly refuses to drink human blood and faces a strained relationship with his brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman), a human-hunting soldier.
A covert group of humans led by Audrey (Claudia Karvan) rescues and hides humans from vampire patrols while they attempt to win allies amongst the vampires. Audrey contacts Edward because of his human sympathies and scientific specialty. He meets Elvis (Willem Dafoe), a man cured of vampirism by brief exposure to sunlight. After some experimentation, Edward is able to duplicate this effect and is cured himself.
When a convoy of humans headed to Audrey’s group is captured by Bromley soldiers, Charles is reunited with his human daughter, Alison (Isabel Lucas) and has her forcibly turned by Frankie. She refuses blood and begins to turn into a subsider. She is killed when a group of the creatures are rounded up and executed. Witnessing Alison’s death upsets Frankie and he seeks out his brother.
Edward, Elvis, and Audrey meet with Chris and ask him to help spread the cure. However, Chris has finally discovered a viable blood-substitute and does not want a cure to become widespread. He calls in a vampire patrol who captures Audrey while Elvis and Edward escape into hiding. They are finally 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 cure for vampirism.
Edward turns himself in and goads Charles into attacking him. Edward uses the now-cured Charles to cure a group of soldiers experiencing the beginning of subsider aggression. Edward and Audrey, cornered by more soldiers, are rescued when Frankie sacrifices himself to the soldiers. This sparks a feeding frenzy that leaves all of the soldiers dead or cured. They are confronted by Chris, who kills the few cured soldiers to hide the evidence of the cure. Elvis arrives and rescues Edward and Audrey by killing Chris. The three survivors then drive away into the sunrise with a voice-over by Edward stating that they have a cure and can change others back.
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 in Gold Coast, Queensland at Warner Bros. Movie World studios and Brisbane, Queensland on July 16, 2007. The production budget was $21 million, with the State Government contributing $1 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 September 11, 2009 at the 34th Annual Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released on January 6, 2010 in the UK and Ireland, January 8, 2010 in North America, and February 4, 2010 in Australia. The US DVD and Blu-Ray release is set for May 11, 2010.
The film currently holds a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 118 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 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."
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, averaging $6,003 per theater. As of February 2010, the gross totaled $30,101,577 in the United States and $42,847,644 worldwide.