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January 17, 2010

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Vampire line is in its death throes

THE only lesson to take away from Ethan Hawke's horror-action tale "Daybreakers" is that vampires cannot run the world's affairs any better than we tasty humans can.

Set in 2019, "Daybreakers" is like today's world: panhandlers begging for scraps, busy bees lining up for a morning rush-hour coffee jolt, precious resources dwindling and global calamity looming with the greedy hoarding the best for themselves.

The differences are that the panhandlers are begging for blood, morning rush-hour comes at dusk, hemoglobin is the key coffee fix instead of caffeine, and the catastrophe in the making isn't climate change.

It's the extinction of humanity, which means starvation for a society of vampires that's now at the top of the food chain.

Zombie romp

The second movie from sibling writer-directors Peter and Michael Spierig, who cut their feature teeth on the zombie romp "Undead," this is another in a seemingly endless series of resurrections of the vampire genre.

At least vampire tales such as TV's "True Blood" or the movie thriller "Thirst" are playful and sexy, and stuff such as "Twilight" is fun to make fun of.

But "Daybreakers" plays like a dirge, striking one long, monotonous note of gloom, a dramatic flatline that barely budges even during its uninspired action-and-gore sequences.

It has a hazy back story about how most of the world's population was transformed into vampires a decade earlier.

It's referred to as kind of an epidemic, yet people also had a say in whether or not they would "turn."

Reluctant vampire

Ethan Hawke stars as Edward Dalton, a bloodsucker who doesn't want to feed on humans. He's the noble, reluctant vampire sort that's becoming a stereotype.

Dalton is a researcher for a vampire corporation racing to develop a substitute for human blood, which is running out because of all the hungry night creatures.

He falls in with a pack of humans that has found a way to change vampires back to friendly mortals. The gang's led by Claudia Karvan and Willem Dafoe, who has a real taste for vampire gigs.

The story pits Dalton against his evil boss (Sam Neill), who likes the rapacious vampire lifestyle and wants to maintain the status quo of this ultimate consumer culture.

But whatever commentary the film intended on our own times it's so empty the Spierigs shouldn't have bothered.

You also have to wonder why the actors bothered, too.

The humdrum story is beneath them, and the ill-defined characters are stuck muttering rubbish such as: "We've been searching for vampires we can trust," or "Life's a bitch, and then you don't die."


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