Sunday, February 28, 2010

Daybreakers - **

It is a new decade and I am full of hope. Hope that this film caps off this bullshit cinematic vampire infestation we've been sitting through for the last year or two. Hope that this is the last movie soaked in that somber blue Underworld Trilogy/Tim Burton in the 2000s color tone. Hope that this is the last time I have to sit through an Ethan Hawke film wondering how the hell one of the best actors around gets stuck in trash like Daybreakers.

The film follows Hawke's vampire scientist as he tries to find a cure for vampirism and bring mankin---oh, who the fuck cares? You've already seen it a thousand times. This incarnation is a horror film, or a suspense thriller, vampire drama, silly cartoonish comedy, apocalyptic vision of the future, or something else entirely. It succeeds intermittently in some of these categories, mostly in the silliness, though I think that is unintentional. The scariest part: watching a weird homeless vampire sneak up on a rich vampire couple and creep them out. The funniest part: also that weird homeless vampire. The goofiest/most tragic part: that Willem Dafoe, another respectable actor, plays the "They call me Elvis"-human-turned-vampire-turned-back-human-again-through-a-bizarre-coincidence-that-he-and-Hawke-try-to-replicate-for-the-rest-of-the-film character. While he almost makes it work, it is just so outrageous and silly for a film that wants to be so somber, with its Sleepy Hollow blue tone look and its reluctant, do-gooder vampires stuck in a corrupt, blood-thirsty (haha) world. The result is just kind of lifeless (haha, vampires are dead).

It's not my intention to simply complain about a good cast in a moronic film, but how can I not? Watching Daybreakers is watching these fine actors (Sam Neill is also dragged into this mess) waste their talent in a film directed by guys who would rather spend time animating their eyes yellow than develop their characters. Silly flourishes like these are abundant in this film, like showing a banner with Uncle Sam wanting you... to capture humans, or vampires taking blood in their coffee instead of cream and sugar. These things could have been interesting, or at least entertaining had they been used with any subtlety. But instead we get shots of the sub-walk, which has replaced the subway system (vampires cannot be exposed to daylight).

So why did I not totally hate this film? Maybe it's because there was enough silliness and cheap thrills to get me through, like a cartoonish exploding head or cars decked out with light-resistant panels and cameras on top so that vampires can drive during the day; maybe it's because I snuck into The Blind Side directly after and saw how bad films can really be; or maybe it's because I am filled with more hopes, like the hope that Sam Neill will go back to doing genre films with masters like Steven Spielberg or John Carpenter, instead of the Sperig Brothers.

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