Film review – Daybreakers (2009)

14 February 2010

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) and Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac (Willem Dafoe)

After the marvellous 2003 Australian zombie/science-fiction film Undead, the Queensland filmmaking brothers Michael and Peter Spierig have now written and directed the Australian/USA co-production Daybreakers. Set in 2019, Daybreakers presents a future where the vampires have won and now populate the Earth. As the blood supply begins to run dry, the human-friendly vampire researcher Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), who is searching for a blood substitute, falls in with a gang of renegade humans.

The techno-gothic world of Daybreakers merges classic vampire mythology with advanced technology and corporate culture in a way not too dissimilar to the Blade films and the Angel television series. Daybreakers is nevertheless highly inventive, containing plenty of interesting and original ideas about vampire technology, vampire physiology and the sociological implications of a vampire world.

Unfortunately weak dialogue and plotting drag the film down and not even the strong cast, which includes Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Claudia Karvan, are able to compensate. Attempts at humour fall flat and the over-reliance on CGIs makes the futuristic city setting look artificial. For all its conceptual greatness Daybreakers is ultimately a B-grade film that never quite lives up to its potential.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 347, 2010

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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Film review – $9.99 (2008)

5 October 2009
Albert (voiced by Barry Otto) and Angel (voiced by Geoffrey Rush)

Albert (voiced by Barry Otto) and Angel (voiced by Geoffrey Rush)

Based on a series of short stories about the meaning of life by Israeli writer Etgar Keret and featuring silicon puppets brought to life with stop-motion animation, $9.99 is a sort of animated, metaphysical Short Cuts. A homeless-man returns to earth as an angel, a slacker with girlfriend issues hangs out with his three miniature friends, a repossession officer dates a model who has a disturbing fetish and an unemployed 28-year-old discovers the answer to life in a mail-order book. All occurring within the same apartment block, these stories, and a few more, are skilfully weaved together by New York based writer/director Tatia Rosenthal.

$9.99 is an Israeli-Australian co-production so while the impressive local voice cast (including Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia and Claudia Karvan) are Australian and while the script has been adapted to suit the Australian vernacular, the look, setting and themes of $9.99 don’t belong to any specific part of the world so are universal in their neutrality. The animation is unfortunately a little ugly, which distracts from the final product, but it does facilitate the blend of Magical Realism, macabre and whimsy that distinguish this curious film.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 338, 2009

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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