As the characters in Daybreakers squabble over the ethics of vampiric evolution – debating the morality of such an existence against a mortal, human one – the film itself seems to be caught up in a similar and equally troubling battle of attrition.
As we catch a non-glimpse of our charming, if flawed, lead protagonist, Edward (Ethan Hawke) in the wing mirror of his sci-fi Cadillac, the source of the conflict becomes glaringly evident.
His lack of reflection speaks volumes. Such classic and mystical elements of vampire mythology are stubbornly maintained in a futuristic world that should have let them rot.
Simply put, at the core of Daybreakers is a fundamental clash between tradition and progress.
First and foremost, the vampires in this universe are the result of genetic science. Through a non-specified form of lab based mutation, the human race has been granted immortality in exchange for the usual array of vampiric curses.
Whilst their lust for blood and aversion to the sun may be explained through rudimentary presumptions of science fiction logic, certain other traits seem far less plausible.
These creatures combust when staked through the heart and are, as mentioned earlier, reflection-less. Both elements seem as though unnecessarily tacked on from the past, resisting all logic in favour of a bizarre loyalty to the history of Hammer Horror. They are entirely out of place within the rules of their world. Having said this, such inconsistencies are catalyst to some of the greatest innovations in the feature.
To tackle the issue of (literal) character reflection, indiscreet cameras are used to project the image of a vampire onto a nearby screen. Apart from being a neat solution to an obvious problem, it may also act as a bludgeoning allegory for surveillance culture.
If a vampire wants to see itself, then it must be on camera to do so. This should pose interesting questions in regards to the basic freedom of personal privacy and, on an even more fascinating level, stand as a razor sharp dissection of modern culture and how one is distanced to life when one sees it through the eyes of an artificial lens.
Sadly, however, it is an idea that is almost completely passed over and makes the sole function of this device an entirely practical one.
As well as the occasional missed opportunity, certain successful elements are employed and then paired with infuriatingly bad ones.
The cinematic landscape oscillates violently between blue toned, noire future city and sun scorched farm land. These comparative images were presumably conceived with the intention of contrasting the natural human world with that of the dour vampire one. The actual effect is one of two separate realities, neither seeming believable in conjunction with the other.
What is most displeasing is that the events in the city are far more engaging than those in the rural environment, lending even the most villainess of vampires a more sympathetic edge than the banal and clichéd human rebels.
So, is Daybreakers really worth your time? Well granted, the problems are significant and yes, they are frequent but then so are the triumphs. The performances are generally noteworthy, the story sufficiently intriguing and the visuals regularly striking. Its mish-mash of sci-fi noire and gothic horror elements create an impressive reality to boot.
If a sequel does emerge, however, we can only hope for a more streamlined affair, one whose quality isn’t as turbulent as the story it purports to tell.