Can the real vampires finally come out and play? By now, these creatures might have to be reintroduced to us: They’re not supercute; they like to drink blood (not merely nuzzle); and they scream and burn in the sunlight. Daybreakers, a darkly stylish horror film that’s unusually solid for a January release, goes a long way toward restoring what’s properly gross about them. Several disgusting scenes make the movie unmissable for goreheads. A creature swoops into a kitchen and anchors itself upside down from the ceiling, growling as if hungry for a midnight snack. (It is.) A teary teenager leaves a suicide note and explodes in flames at the rising sun. And Sam Neill—as if not ferocious enough in evil-CEO mode—sports some pointy fangs.
Written and directed by Australia’s Peter and Michael Spierig (whose boring debut, 2003’s Undead, didn’t suggest much), the film feels more like a closely guarded labor of love than your typical Hollywood slot-filler. Equal parts Gattaca-worthy moodiness and future shock (with a violent car chase thrown in for good measure), the blue-tinted thriller sets up a creepy America in which vampires rule, stacking bodies Matrix-style in giant holding tanks while stirring blood into their coffee. Vamp scientist Ethan Hawke might have a “cure” for the condition, but the powers that be want nothing of it, or of him; meanwhile, an underground human militia has plans of its own. Their rebellious inspiration is a crossbow-toting Willem Dafoe—and you have to wonder if any other actor is having as much fun with his career as he is. After surviving Antichrist and Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, plus embodying a rat in Fantastic Mr. Fox, you could even say he’s toning it down a bit here.—Joshua Rothkopf
Opens Fri 8.
Watch the trailer