2010, R, 98 min. Directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig. Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas, Jay Laga'aia.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Jan. 8, 2010

Tell any ex-smoker he has a day left to live, and I guarantee first stop will be the nearest convenience store for his preferred brand of carcinogens. The populace of Daybreakers has even less time – they're already dead, in fact; vampires, the lot of 'em – which explains why everyone smokes like a chimney. It's a topsy-turvy world where children bus to school at 2 in the morning and the local coffeehouse slings blood like java brew. But the vampire community is in crisis: With humans hunted to near extinction, there’s a serious food shortage, which is why hematologist Edward Dalton (Hawke) labors 'round the clock to come up with a blood substitute. (No luck yet: His most recent experiment ends in a gory head-spattering of the test subject.) Edward is a mournful, moral-high-horse kind of guy who gets by on animal blood and hates the rah-rah militarism of his little brother, Frankie (Dorman, one of several Australian actors recruited by fellow Aussies Michael and Peter Spierig, a writing/directing team of brothers). When a small enclave of human resistance rightly senses Edward is a sympathizer, he goes off the grid to help manufacture a cure to vampirism so improbably stumbled upon it might as well have been tied to a kite and sent out for a lightning strike. It’s a little bit silly – as is Dafoe’s Kentucky-fried cowboy mechanic named Elvis – but silly is fun. In fact, one wishes it were sillier still; Daybreakers is an ingeniously conceived, designed, and dressed piece, but whither the sex and the humor, huh? For laughs, Hawke’s ill-fitting fedora will have to do (it rides so high on his head, one wonders if there’s a Bumpit underneath). There’s no shortage of memorable images, from a human farm that recalls Coma’s creepy, hanging human shells to a shackled death march into sunlight, and the Spierigs have included some interesting philosophical flourishes. I’m not sure they entirely come to fruition, but the filmmakers must be planning a franchise: How else to explain the rushed ride off into the sunset?

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Daybreakers
They're Coming To Get You, Barbara...
They're Coming To Get You, Barbara...
Fantastic Fest Round Two

Marc Savlov, Aug. 12, 2009

More Michael Spierig Films
Helen Mirren fights off ghosts with construction tools.

Marc Savlov, Feb. 9, 2018

The Saw character returns

Marc Savlov, Nov. 3, 2017

More by Kimberley Jones
Recipe: Percolator Punch
Recipe: Percolator Punch
This heavenly smelling treat is a great alternative to apple cider

Nov. 26, 2021

We Have an Issue: Artistic Creation Can Happen Anywhere
We Have an Issue: Artistic Creation Can Happen Anywhere
TikTok viral hitmakers, an old-school columnist who writes to live – this week it’s all about making art no matter what

Nov. 26, 2021


Daybreakers, Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas, Jay Laga'aia

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle