‘Daybreakers’ a Wonderful Blood-Sucking Midnight Entry

Film offers a reprimand to the current market standard for vampire lore.

Since pop culture turned vampires into teen hunks, only diehard horror fans seem to recall the original morbidity of the fictional blood-suckers.

"Do not expect to see any ‘Twilight’ sequels in this cinema ever," said TIFF Midnight Madness programmer at the premiere of "Daybreakers" in the Ryerson Theater last night. The crowd went wild, as they always do at midnight screenings, but this time it seemed like a rallying call to action.

Whether or not Geddes’s declaration holds true, "Daybreakers" does offer a reprimand to the current market standard for vampire lore.

A fast-paced pulp story with plenty of intelligence and wit to match its gore, the movie takes place in 2019, when nearly everyone has become an immortal blood-sucker.

Twin Australian directors Michael and Peter Spierig (whose first feature, "Undead" premiered at TIFF in 2003) create a fully realized vision of the future that recalls "Minority Report" in its attention to detail: Vampires drive cars with blacked-out windows and internal monitors to move around during the day, speakers blare out notices of the incoming sunrise, and the remaining humans have become enemies of the state.

While a few survivors lurk in hiding, most are harvested in an underground laboratory to maintain the livelihood of vampire society. The premise suggests "Blade Runner" taken to horror extremes.

Ethan Hawke plays a sympathetic scientist desperately looking for an alternative source of vampire nourishment to replace the depleting human supply, while Sam Neil puts on his devilish bad guy face as Hawke’s greedy boss.

After connecting with a renegade human (Willem Dafoe) and his clandestine team, Hawke’s character comes closer to achieving his mission, but turns into a wanted man as a result. High concept in the extreme, the movie oscillates between intelligent sci-fi conceits and pure fun.

The brothers’ script is punchy, filled with clever twists on noir dialogue ("Life’s a bitch, then you don’t die," Hawke laments), but with its B-movie roots and rather cheap special effects, I can’t imagine that Lionsgate Films will give it much of a release in January before dumping it on DVD.

Regardless of the delivery method, genre fans should make an effort to check it out. For their part, the Spierigs prove themselves worthy of a bigger budget and more opportunities to keep the standards for the horror genre in a good place.

"People who create dystopian worlds are usually the kindest people," Sam Neil joked during a Q&A after the movie, comparing the brothers to John Carpenter. "It’s a thin veneer. These boys would suck the blood out of your marrow if they had the chance."