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This is one of those films that several people have recommended to me, and I avoided it mainly because I hate Ethan Hawke with a burning, fiery passion-but that’s another issue for another time.

Daybreakers surprised me in a few ways:

1) The story was pretty well thought out, and I was surprised to learn that the directors (Michael & Peter Spierig) wrote it from scratch, because it seemed like obvious comic book/graphic novel material. This is much more serious than their first film, Undead-a zombie comedy set in a small town.

2) MASSIVE amounts of splatter! Exploding heads, gruesome fang wounds, buckets and buckets of blood dripping down walls, counters, spread across floors, and all over mouths, faces, necks, clothes, etc. It’s definitely not the usual glamorized portrait of vampires.

And I really dug the premise: a mysterious plague caused most humans to morph into vampires, but now that the human population is dying out, the lack of blood supply is turning vamps into “subsiders”-creepy, ferocious bat-like creatures that hang out in the sewers and attack anything that bleeds.

Here’s where it gets a little sketchy: Hawke plays a reluctant vamp scientist who doesn’t drink human blood, and is striving to find a blood substitute so his boss (Sam Neil) can market the hell out of it and make even more millions to add to his already-fat piles of money. But since Hawke is the only vampire who hates being a vampire, he’s actually trying to find a cure instead so he can go back to his boring human existence (I might be embellishing a bit here).

Despite that “vampire with a heart of gold” shtick, The atmosphere the directors set up was pretty impressive. I loved the bleak noir-esque/Blade Runner-y type sets and the clever little details (teens sipping blood-laced coffee out of paper cups, corked bottles of vintage blood, homeless vamps begging on the streets for blood, etc.).

Sam Neil kind of rocked it, but what I didn’t love about this was Willem Dafoe’s awful one-liners, the explanation for how a ‘cure’ was discovered, the wishy-washiness of Hawke’s military brother, and of course, Hawke himself.

It ended up being a mix of good and bad, but it’s definitely one of the better vampire films I’ve seen in awhile.

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