While we were living in Massachusetts, John and I fell out of the habit of watching movies on a regular basis. Both of us worked full-time plus, and the way my hours were divided between a split-shift, my commute, and working two jobs, I very rarely had the mental focus to stay awake through an entire feature film. Now that we’re happily settled into our temporary partial retirement and working less than 30 hours a week, my energy levels have begun to spring back. Case in point: we were up at 6:00 for a run this morning and I’m still pretty alert at midnight. It’s awesome.
With all this time and energy, we’ve finally started to work through the backlog on our Netflix queue. At the top of the list was Daybreakers, recommended by my sister Charlie whom I have decided has questionable taste in movies. I am allowed to say this only because I share a taste for the worst of her questionable choices, but on this one, I’m afraid our tastes part company.
The premise of the movie is actually unique, as the played-out vampire genre goes these days. Humanity is nearly extinct because those that refused to become vampires are being rounded up and farmed for food, largely by Sam Neill’s corporation in an impressively creepy blood-harvesting system that gives the Matrix human-battery system a run for its money in the race of all things unnerving. What the viewers understand immediately is what all other sensible vampires have known since the dawn of the self-aware undead: prey must always outnumber the predator significantly to sustain a food chain. Even with blood rationing, the vampires are a scant month away from turning into mindless, cannibalistic monsters with wings (nevermind that all the other vampires never even exhibit so much as a hint of an ability to pull out wings) unless they can develop a synthetic source of nutrition.
The head researcher, played by the ever-angsty Ethan Hawke (who is a vampire, but not of his own volition), teams up with a few of the last free-range humans to find not a synthetic source of blood to prevent human hunting, but to duplicate a process that has been used to turn a vampire back into a human. They succeed and return to civilization, presumably to deliver the cure. Along the way, there is a fair amount of amusingly blatant product placement, cool conceptualization of near-future tech, and a better-than-average eye for the artistic in the overall aesthetic of the film, but I had a hard time investing in the characters or plot because the minimal attempts at mitigating the (no pun intended) dead seriousness with which the film takes itself fell utterly flat.
Where the movie really walked into the deadly dawn, however, was in the last five minutes. It was, without question, the biggest fail of an ending I’ve seen in a long time. Seriously, think this through: Humanity is on the edge of extinction because they’re all either vampires or eaten by vampires. You’ve got (a) vats of a stable blood replacement for starving vampires, (b) a blood-carried cure that will turn vampires into vampire-resistant humans, AND (c) easy access to the delivery system, as in: you’re there and you’ve already arranged for the security forces to take each other out, turning one another human in the process. Do you (a) rescue humanity from itself or (b) flee into the sunset in a retro sports car with the dumbest possible catchphrase lamely tattooed across the front with the whispered promise that you’ll cure whoever finds you?
Without apparent cause or provocation, the three surviving humans who have risked life and limb to bring the cure to humanity drive madly away from the city AFTER they have successfully infiltrated the corporate fortress where they could easily contaminate the newly-stable synthetic blood supply WITHOUT actually delivering the cure. I suppose if you go in for twisted endings, it’s a doozy, but it struck me as inexcusably sloppy plot construction. If there was something deeper they meant to explore or point out with their choice of closing scene, the message was utterly lost in the unfocused miasma that constituted everything that preceded the ending.
If you like vampire movies, you might find it to be not bad. The acting is decent, the concept isn’t stale as everything else on the market, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. Charming, even, if you can believe that of a vampire movie. Sadly, it was so far from sticking the landing that the hypothetical stick will never see the light of day, and for that, I really can’t find forgiveness. Then again, I have been awake for eighteen+ hours and I am a crochety old lady, so perhaps I’m not being fair. I don’t know. You tell me. But don’t ask me to watch the movie again unless the world will end if I don’t watch a movie and the only other option is Zardoz.
That, however, is a review for another midnight.