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In honor of its anniversary, we honor the legacy of the underrated and innovative vampire film with a unique lore, “Daybreakers”.

Vampires are my favorite horror characters. Needless to say, the vampire subgenre is diverse. Both novelists and screenwriters have given horror fans various interpretations of vampires over the years, and I can appreciate many of them — from the classic Dracula to Interview With the Vampire to 30 Days of Night.

However, I want to discuss a rarely mentioned stand-out in the vampire subgenre, 2010’s Daybreakers.

HBO’s hit TV series, True Blood (2008-2014), based on writer Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries, explored what would happen if vampires “came out of the coffin.” Written by Michael and Peter Spierig, Daybreakers takes the scenario to a different level.

Daybreakers takes vampires into the realm of science fiction for a tale of a dystopic future set in an appropriately dreary atmosphere.

We’re taken to a future city ten years after an outbreak, a pandemic started by one infected bat that spread a virus that turns people into vampires. A blood substitute was tried and failed. The remaining humans who refused to turn are hunted and used as food sources.

We see clips of news channels with vampire politicians arguing against using humans for food. The vampire majority is starving due to a blood shortage, causing civil unrest. When vampires starve, they degenerate into mindless creatures called subsiders.

Hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) works for Bromley Marks, the leading supplier of human blood in the U.S.

Daybreakers

Edward is part of a team working on another blood substitute. Their labs harvest human blood in “farms,” consisting of rows of human bodies that appear to be comatose. Edward doesn’t drink human blood, and it’s revealed that his brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman), forcibly turned him into a vampire because he didn’t want Edward to be killed.

Edward’s life changes after he’s in an accident involving another car filled with a group of humans. Instead of allowing the authorities to catch them, he allows the humans to hide in his car, switching it to daylight mode, which turns the windows from clear to tinted. When the police come, he tells them that the humans in the crashed car have escaped.

One member of the human group, Audrey (Claudia Karvan), gets Edward’s name and occupation from his ID badge in the car. 

It turns out that Audrey is part of a group that may have a cure for vampirism, and he reaches out to Edward for help.

However, some don’t want a cure. Some humans cherish the immortality that comes with being vampires, such as Edward’s brother, Frankie, and Edward’s boss, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), the CEO of Bromley Marks.

Edward makes it no secret that he doesn’t enjoy drinking human blood. He’s sympathetic to humans and longs to be human again. 

Daybreaker’s plot includes some innovative and interesting twists.

The vampires have some traditional characteristics, such as not casting a reflection in the mirror, having a heightened sense of smell, being impervious to injury, sickness, or pain, being sensitive to sunlight, and not aging physically.

Unlike many of their predecessors, the vampires in the Daybreakers universe do not possess many supernatural abilities, such as telepathy or enhanced speed or strength. They can die through a stake or arrow through the heart, which causes them to explode. However, garlic and silver, and religious items don’t repel them. 

Daybreakers creates a convincing universe in which vampires are a majority.

Cars are equipped with a daytime mode with tinted windows and cameras, allowing a vampire to drive during the day. The city is also equipped with an underground tunnel system and sun-proof tunnels, allowing vampires to walk through the city daily.

Shots of children smoking and drinking coffee are jarring but help illustrate that vampires don’t age physically. Many of the vampire characters smoke like chimneys and drink coffee by the gallon due to the fact that excessive consumption of both can no longer affect their health. There is also a sign for a school zone with the designated times for children crossing between 2 and 3 am. since vampire children who haven’t reached their adult age would have to attend school at night.

Of course, the most realistic part of this story is that the human blood supply is running out.

The Daybreakers universe adds to vampire lore with some unique touches.

Human blood is a must for a healthy vampire. Lack of human blood causes a vampire to degenerate physically and intellectually. These subsiders go from looking pretty close to humans, except for their glowing yellow irises, to becoming more bat-like creatures. They lose their intellectual capabilities and become violent.

Edward is apparently undernourished and feeds mostly on animal blood. During the course of the movie, his ears begin to take on a pointy batlike appearance. Once he drinks human blood, his ears revert back to normal.

However, we see that without intervention or an infusion of human blood at the right time, once a vampire becomes a subsider, there is no hope.

As previously mentioned, the idea of a group of humans dedicated to finding a cure for vampirism is another compelling twist. Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) is a former vampire who accidentally discovers a cure that, interestingly enough, turns out to be sunlight — just the right amount of exposure for a specified length of time. Now a member of the human resistance, he has a lot of wisdom to offer. 

The film has an excellent cast and some memorable characters.

The foil to Edward Dalton’s reluctant vampire committed to helping discover a cure is Charles Bromley, a power-hungry corporate CEO who faced his own mortality. Instead of bravely accepting his fate, he accepts a cure that comes with worse side effects and long-term consequences. While Dalton sacrifices himself for experimentation in an effort to save others, Bromley will sacrifice his own daughter, Alison (Isabel Lucas), to prolong his own existence.

Daybreakers explores life in a totalitarian society where the majority are vampires and humans who refuse to turn are hunted for food.

Former humans, like Charles Bromley, see vampirism as empowering.

Before Bromely turned, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He saw vampirism as a cure for his disease. His daughter, however, saw him as a monster and refused to turn. Those physically transformed and believe that the vampiric state is superior end up forcing others, including loved ones, to turn. In Frankie’s case, he turned Edward against his will to protect him instead of standing with him and supporting him as a human in defiance of a vampire-ruled society.

Former vampire Elvis points out, however, that vampires aren’t really the strong ones. Their dependence on human blood and the need to hide from the sunlight makes them weak.

The vampires have tried to develop a blood substitute instead of a cure. Blinded by immortality and immunity from human disease, they refuse to see what’s right in front of them: a society with a vampire majority is not sustainable.

They’re so drunk on their own power that it seems that they don’t think of what will happen when humans are hunted to extinction.

Daybreakers, released on January 8, 2010, is not often mentioned as a notable film in the vampire subgenre. But the story’s originality and its message alone make it a standout and earn it a rightful place in horror history.

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