There are a lot of really underrated movies in the world that either came out before their time, had something happen that prevented them from getting the recognition they deserved, or didn’t land the way they should have straight out the gate. One such film is 2009’s Daybreakers starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe. Would you give it a second chance?
“In 2019, the most precious natural resource…is us.” The 2009 action, horror, sci-fi thriller Daybreakers told the story of a world that had been brought to the brink of destruction by a plague that had turned most of the population of Earth into vampires. With only 5% of the world left as humans, the vampires face the issue of a significantly dwindling blood supply, and the now dominant race of vampires must figure out how they will survive in the long run.
Rationing blood becomes the first solution to solving the issue of the issuing blood supply. Still, as it turns out when a vampire is deprived of the blood it needs, they seem to devolve further into wild, vile creatures that will attack anything and anyone to get the blood they need to survive.
Dr Edward Dalton, the protagonist of the film, is a vampire haematologist working at a pharmaceutical firm. He is working on finding his own solution to the dwindling blood supply, trying to create artificial blood to meet all vampire society’s needs. Uncharacteristic of a vampire, he is sympathetic to humans, wanting to alleviate their suffering at the hands of vampire-kind.
On his quest to find a solution, he meets a group of humans who think they might have found a way to reverse the havoc the plague caused, turning vampires back into humans. Edward decides to work with Lionel and Audrey, two fugitive humans.
Despite how excellent the film was, it doesn’t have glowing reviews. It has a 6.4/10 rating on IMDb, a 68% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 49% rating from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite being the only vampire movie of its kind ever made and having reinvented a part of the genre, it didn’t get the love it deserves. Nevertheless, it is one of the most underrated vampire movies ever. Would you rather watch this or watch Morpheus? The general critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that Daybreakers sets itself apart from other unfortunate vampire movies because of its “dark sci-fi thrills” and has enough of a unique twist on the vampire genre to “satisfy filmgoers”.
Cast and Credits
The film was directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, affectionately known as the Spierig brothers. Chris Brown and Bryan and Sean Furst also produced it.
The cast is made up of Alex Revan, starring as Rygar, Brooke Chamberlain as Isobel, Carl Rush as Al Walker, Charlotte Wilson as Joy Watkins, Christopher Kirby as Jarvis Bayom, Claudia Karvan as Audrey Bennett, Damien Garvey as Senator Westlake, Emma Randall as Ellie Landon, Ethan Hawke as the protagonist Edward Dalton, Harriet Minto-Day as Lisa Barrett, Isabel Lucas as Alison Bromley, Jay Laga-aia as Senator Turner, John Gibson as Detective Cosgrove, Michael Dorman as Frankie Dalton, Mungo McKay as Colin Briggs, Paul Sonkkila as General Williams, Robyn Moore as Forensic Investigator Simms, Sam Neill as Charles Bromley, Todd Levi as Commissioner Turnbull, Troy MacKinder as Officer Hobbs, Vince Colosimo as Christopher Caruso, and Willem Dafoe as Lionel ‘Elvis’ Cormac.
One of the biggest strengths that Ethan Hawke’s Daybreakers has is the way it perfectly blends the genres of sci-fi, horror, and drama. Vampire movies rarely make any attempt to mingle with sci-fi. However, horror and drama usually make their way into those movies. The futuristic aspect of the way that the vampires create human blood farms is so creepy and science-fiction that it catapults the film into a genre of its own.
The film has been credited with being more imaginative than most vampire movies, with a modicum of “diabolical detail” with its dark and brooding theme. The film tackles dark and profound questions about humanity and the lengths to go to survive, even when we are turned into vampires.
Daybreakers pioneered the genre of vampire movies that stepped out of the cliché of ‘I want to suck your blood’ and made it something much more. As a result, a whole society of vampires has realised that they outnumber humans a hundred to one, who has come out of hiding and shaped the world and technology in a way that works for them.
The film created a new world and was often commended for its set-up. This unique kind of futuristic world was entirely catered towards vampires, with a city that mostly protected them from the sun, cars designed to keep vampires safe during daylight, and technology developed just for them.
Of course, even a great film has its weaknesses. The film was accused of being too ambitious for what could be achieved in 2009, and it may have been before its time for that respect. It was accused of being a missed opportunity for a concept that could have been much more.
The film didn’t age well and needs to hold up to the movies and technology that we have access to today. While it was an innovative take on the genre, it still sticks with predictable themes. How far can you really break the mould when it comes to vampire movies? To keep it recognisable as a vampire movie, it’s necessary to stick with some tropes.
The film also didn’t have enough time to let the characters that they had created shine in their full glory. The film had many exciting characters, protagonists, heroes, and antagonists. Even Edward Dalton comes off as a little ambiguous in the end, even though we spend most of the film looking over his shoulder.
The special effects of the film were unfortunately limited by budget and the capabilities of the technology available at the time. Creating such a fantastic world in 2009 was more challenging than now. At the time, computer-generated effects were put aside for more convincing costumes and effects. Although the film created an entirely new world, it should have been explored more. This problem could be easily fixed with a sequel or a series based on the story, allowing the directors and producers to explore the fantastic world they had created entirely.