Blu-ray
Worth a Look
3.5 stars
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Overall Grade
3.5 stars

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The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
3 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

Daybreakers

Street Date:
May 11th, 2010
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
May 10th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Lionsgate
Length:
98 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

"The World is a Vampire." - Smashing Pumpkins

You can sure say that again, Billy Corgan. And no, I'm not referring to the raging tween phenomenon that has taken the globe by storm, tainting the reputations of vampires everywhere by dragging them through glitter-laced mud. I'm talking about the first mainstream film from budding Australian writer/director brothers Peter and Michael Spierig. 'Daybreakers' not only gives the creatures of the night back their long overdue bite, the movie establishes a unique setting where vampires are the dominant civilization on Earth -- and humans have been figuratively placed on the endangered species list.

The story is set in the year 2019, a decade after the onset of a mysterious plague that has turned over 95 percent of the world's population into ravenous vampires. With so little humans left on the planet, a private pharmaceutical corporation run by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) is the main blood supplier to the public, rounding up any humans they can capture to harvest their plasma in laboratory farms. Unfortunately, with demand so high and the supply running out, the lower classes who can't afford their share of sustenance have begun devolving into feral monstrosities called "subsiders" causing a menace in the streets. Forget the Ghostbusters, it's time to call undead Billy the Exterminator!

Anyway, it's no surprise fang central is desperate to avoid this terrible fate, so Bromley's company is also hard at work trying to concoct a synthetic blood substitute as a backup plan. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is one of the hematologists assigned this task, and he hopes this will be the answer to everyone's problems, particularly the humans, as he's a monster with a conscience. But one night when a good samaritan act by Edward saves a human named Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan) from being caught by the authorities and gains her trust, she takes him to meet the enigmatic Elvis (Willem Dafoe) who may hold the key to something even better than faux-blood -- a cure.

'Daybreakers' certainly has a very intriguing premise, and I'm actually a little surprised it took this long for someone to come up with the idea. I mean, everyone knows vampires suck their victims dry or turn the really unlucky souls into walking undead. Either way, it's one less living being (and possibly +1 to the gen-pop of Team Edward), so it makes sense that eventually only vampires would remain. Obviously this world would be much different than ours, and the Spierig brothers have some fun putting it all together by exploiting many of the typical vampire clichés while still adding some of their own ideas to keep it fresh. They really don't skimp on the details and the effects provided by WETA look fantastic as always. I even noticed new things on my second viewing. All of this is wrapped up in a sci-fi noir-esque shell along the lines of 'Dark City' and 'The Matrix'--making for one visually slick picture.

As 'Daybreakers' has that graphic novel-turned-movie type of experience, the performances aren't very deep, but they still serve well enough to get by. Hawke looks uncomfortable taking a fantasy turn, and fortunately it suits the uneasiness of his character as he sympathizes with the humans and struggles to keep his true feelings under wraps. Willem Dafoe's Elvis is just some guy with great one-liners that was in the right place at the right time, and unwittingly ends up becoming the most valuable ticket towards wiping out the worldwide vampirism. And Sam Neill appears to be having a devil of a time hamming it up and slinking around in the shadows. You just know he's up to no good the moment you lay eyes on him.

Even though 'Daybreakers' works hard at becoming a genre classic, to be honest it doesn't quite get there. The movie's main shortcoming is its execution, with the finished product feeling rough around the edges. There are some sloppy edits, and although I liked the gory nature of the attacks, attimes I felt they were thrown in more for filler than for anything else. Certain twists also spill too many beans during the setup, so the cat is let out of the bag before we get to the eventual reveal. At least it was for me.

That said, considering how the Spierigs' resume goes from a short film to zombie B-movie to 'Daybreakers'--it's still an impressive progression despite its flaws, and pumps life through the veins of a genre that's been as hollow as an empty coffin lately.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Daybreakers' rises on a dual-layered BD-50 Blu-ray Disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. My screener copy also came with a shiny foil-embossed slipcover. There are forced trailers for 'From Paris With Love,' 'Gamer,' the uber-cheesy 'Lionsgate Blu-ray' promo, and 'EPIX HD.' The disc is also reported to be region-locked and therefore will only function properly in Region A compatible machines.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Lionsgate has treated the Blu-ray of 'Daybreakers' with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4-encoded transfer framed in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. For the most part, the visuals should make most viewers happy, but there are a few issues keeping the transfer from receiving a higher score.

The image has a thin sheen of grain and it generally remains balanced throughout the movie. The vampire world is often awash in a colder, clinical color palette consisting mainly of blue, gray, and white hues for that noir-ish look. There are splashes of blood red crimsons and the yellow vampire eyes gleam with an eye-catching brilliance. Naturally, things become much less bleak in daylight scenes, having warmer tones mixed in with a bit of lush vibrant greenery. Black levels are pitch-perfect across the board, which is always crucial in any film filled with long stretches of darkness, while contrast is also very stable.

Fine details and textures are good but are never fully revealing, and some places do appear softer than others. A slight blurring/bleeding occurs in the backgrounds of busier chase scenes, although the CGI is probably the culprit to blame here. Aside from occasional fluctuations in digital noise that seems to peak in the winery, the rest of the transfer is pretty well spotless. Ultimately, even though 'Daybreakers' has room for improvement, what we get is still a solid presentation.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

'Daybreakers' also comes equipped with a very satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that definitely enhances the overall viewing experience.

The track is surprisingly dynamic, with surround usage delivering a highly active presence. Screeching bats, hissing stun darts, and numerous other sound effects and general ambience pleasantly envelopes the listening area from all directions. Christopher Gordon's score also smoothly drifts to the rear channels and provides a nice even spread throughout the room. The LFE rumbles frequently, from the roaring engine of Elvis' Trans Am to scorching vampires in the sunlight. The well placed jump-moments are laced with sudden, startling booms, too. Though whispers can be a hair on the soft side, the rest of the conversational dialogue is cleanly delivered and appropriately balanced with the mix. If the track isn't quite demo-worthy material, 'Daybreakers' still offers one of the more impressive lossless soundtracks on the format.

The Blu-ray also includes an alternate French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, as well as optional English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Blu-ray owners get all of the supplements found on the standard-definition DVD as well as a slew of high-definition exclusives. Shared features include:

  • Audio Commentary – With writers/directors Peter and Michael Spierig and creature designer Steve Boyle. This is a technical, though easy-going track with the brothers discussing everything from their first foray into the horror genre with their low-budget 'Undead' to the usual production-related insights. A lot of what is mentioned here is repeated throughout the much better exclusive making-of documentary in the next section, but I suppose it's still nice to have options for those who may prefer commentary tracks over video docs.

  • Poster Art Gallery – A collection of seven scrollable theatrical posters.

  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:27) – The theatrical trailer for 'Daybreakers.'

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

As mentioned previously, the bulk of the supplemental features are exclusive to the Blu-ray, with the highlight being one massive making-of documentary.

  • Making of 'Daybreakers' (HD, 121:38) – The packaging calls this supplement a "feature-length documentary" and man, they weren't kidding around here. In fact, this thing is longer than the actual movie. Sort of an EPK/production diary hybrid, the extensive piece is chock full of interviews, concept art, behind-the-scenes footage, and practically anything else you could imagine. It's really quite exhausting, but fortunately it's divided into sections, with each having their own chapters (or you can just 'Play All' if you have two hours to kill). Here's the breakdown:

    Early Development: The Beginning; Story Development; The Vampires - Part I; Script Editing; Casting; and The Vampires - Part II.

    Pre-Production: Part I - Creating the Look; Part II - Rehearsals and Ed Dalton; Part III - Teeth, Lenses, and Car Crashes; and Part IV - On Set Rehearsals.

    Production: Part I - Subsiders from the Start; Part II - The Human Resistance; Part III - Two Directors and Elvis; Part IV - Carnage and Car Crashes; Part V - Schedule and Shigella; Part VI - Bites and Bromley; Part VII - Sacrifice and Subsiders; and Part VIII - The Beginning is the End.

    Post-Production: Part I - Editing and Visual Effects; Part II - Music, Color, and Sound; Part III - Test Screening and New Ending; and Part IV - The Toronto Film Festival.

  • 'The Big Picture' (HD, 13:51) – According to IMDb.com, this short film is the first production from the Spierig brothers before they unleashed 'Undead.' It plays out like something from 'The Twilight Zone' or 'The Outer Limits,' though it has a different tone from their later work.

  • Storyboard and Animatics Comparison – A Bonus View picture-in-picture feature that shows storyboards and animatics in a small window during the movie. It also works in conjunction with the audio commentary.

  • BD Touch – Access disc-specific special features via the iPhone and iPod Touch. Check out www.bdtouch.com for more details.

  • Metamenu – This features supposedly enables Blu-ray owners to control their players via iPhone. More information can be found on the www.my.metamenus.com site.

  • Bookmarks – Save your favorite scenes. Never found any use for this feature personally.

  • Ticker/Gadgets – A net-synched menu featuring news tickers, weather updates, clocks, and other gadgets.

  • LG-Live – Lionsgate's BD-Live Portal where you can download ringtones and backgrounds, control your gadgets, and access other online goodies.

  • Digital Copy – A second disc includes a standard-definition digital copy of the film compatible with PC or Mac.

  • Trailers – And just in case you want to watch the forced trailers on startup again, they are also found on the menu: 'From Paris With Love,' 'Gamer,' 'Lionsgate Blu-ray' promo, and 'EPIX HD.'

Final Thoughts

The Spierig brothers' 'Daybreakers' brings an interesting dystopian twist to vampire lore and this film has enough style and gore to appease most horror fans, even if it isn't a perfect entry in the genre. Add a great video transfer, a fantastic audio presentation, and a smattering of standard supplements followed by another helping of HD exclusives (including the extremely thorough making-of documentary), the non-sparkly 'Daybreakers' is worth checking out--at least as a rental.

Technical Specs

  • BD-50 Blu-ray Disc
  • Region A

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround Sound
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio commentary with the directors and special effects creator Steve Boyle
  • Poster gallery
  • Theatrical trailer

Exclusive HD Content

  • Metamenu
  • BD Touch
  • LG-Live
  • Digital copy
  • Bookmarks
  • "Making of Daybreakers" Feature-length Documentary
  • "The Big Picture" short film
  • Bonus View Storyboard and Animatics film comparison

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