Daybreakers (2009)

Rated: R for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity.
Length: 98 minutes
Grade: B+FAA=A
Budget: $20 million
Box Office: $61 million (30 U.S., 20 Intl., 11 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Michael and Peter Spierig (Undead, The Big Picture)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, and Sam Neill.

In a future where most humans have been turned into vampires and the whole society is theirs, the blood supply is running out and the race faces total extinction unless a solution can be found.

Entertainment Value: B+
The first reason this is a good movie is that it falls into my favorite genre: an intriguing premise taken seriously and then played out in thoughtful detail on the screen. Just the portrayal of a normalized vampire society alone is worth seeing here. The characters and the plot are interesting, although certain obvious questions are avoided (Why does the lack of blood, not it’s presence, make vampires strong? Why aren’t there herds of animals in addition to humans? Why would such a crisis develop and climax in such a short period of time?) Nevertheless, this is interesting and a completely different take on vampire stories than the current glut of others offers. Just one example should suffice. In the background newscast of the opening sequence, one commenter mentions that vampire combustions are still the number one cause of forest fires.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity C, Violence F, Language D
Although there is nudity, it is non-erotic, basically shown when humans are stored in machines as blood sources a la the Matrix. The language would merit an R rating, but it’s not awful by today’s standards (about 15 F- and S- words each). Characters smoke a lot. The main reason that no children should watch this movie is that it is extremely violent and scary. Kids-in-mind gave it a 10 for violence, and I agree. R for sure. No kids. You might say teens can see Twilight, but no way should anyone under 16 be watching this. Think 28 Days Later, Blade, or Underworld.

Significant Content: A
I have recently become more interested in the Vampire/Zombie genre of films, mostly because they seem to be so popular. This easily stands out as the most philosophically nteresting of those. The main character is a vampire who wishes he could go back to being human and thus has great misgivings about helping the vampire corporation for whom he works more efficiently harvest human blood. Without giving too much plot away, I think the parallels with humans in Eden, the fall, and then being restored to a more permanent condition of stability is brilliant. Immortality without virtue is a curse.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
First, major praise for the total embrace of concept down to the finest details. It’s a beautiful movie both in overall visual presentation and in creative application of the concept to create a believable alternate universe. But precisely because the parallels with Christianity are so pervasive, I found this movie doing something for me I never quite expected. Not only was it interesting in its own right, but it gave me all sorts of new insights about the vampire concept itself as played out in other movies. In other words, this movie actually made other movies more interesting to me. That’s impressive.

Discussion Questions:
~What do you think of the reversal on traditional vampire theory so that vampires feed to remain normal and lucid but not particularly strong whereas blood deprivation makes them savages?
~Why are people so interested in vampire stories these days? If you think of the “vampire virus” as a parable for sin, what ways could you say that vampires are the perfect illustration of sinful people? How do vampires survive and what effect do they have on their victims? What would happen if vampirism (sin) actually took over the world and destroyed goodness? What happens if an entire culture is filled with parasites? Do vampires create life or only pervert it into becoming like themselves?
~In this movie, what is the solution for the vampire virus, and how does it relate (if at all) to the Biblical solution for sin? What’s blood got to do with it? Are there any parallels to be drawn from this with communion? Does this movie offer a good analogy for being born again? Given the permanence of the solution, is this movie preaching Calvinism?
~If vampires could be saved or redeemed rather than destroyed, would fighting them suddenly take on a different dimension? Why is the normal vampire as purely evil not a good metaphor for sinners?
~“What does it profit a man to gain immortality but lose his immortal soul?” Is this a good summary for the theme of this movie? Is it better to die as a man or to live as a monster?
~When Sam Neill says the goal is not a cure but repeat business, what point is the movie trying to make? Who is its target for criticism? Does Christianity offer a cure or repeat business or both? How so?
~Compare and contrast this with other vampire or zombie movies, especially I Am Legend.

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The opening scene of the child vampire.
~Dalton trying his cure on himself.
~The confrontation with his brother.
~The end scenes with the guards.

Overall Grade: A
A very gory exploration of a fascinating alternate conception of vampires which virtually screams Christian themes and belongs cinematically in the same elite science-fiction category as Equilibrium and Strange Days. There’s a very good reason Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill signed on to this project.

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