In Richard Matheson’s groundbreaking 1954 novella I Am Legend, a devastating plague ravages the planet, turning humanity into a race of shambling vampires, hell bent on drinking the blood of any survivors that have the misfortune of crossing their paths.
In the new horror/thriller Daybreakers, a similar setup sees mankind falling prey to a vampiric disease. Except here, the ghouls become the master race: a cultured, mannered, sophisticated society of monsters who live by night.
The film is the latest offering from Australia’s Spierig Brothers, the wild-eyed lads who previously gave us 2005’s loopy zombie epic Undead.
But unlike that demented spoof, Daybreakers takes its subject considerably more seriously, fusing gore-caked thrills with social satire and intimate character study while delivering a vampire film that bends — but not breaks — the rules.
“We respect the vampire mythology,” says Peter Spierig of his oft-exploited subject.
“We didn’t want to break too many of the rules, but by the same token we wanted to really do something different. We wanted to add the social commentary too, without being too heavy-handed about it or preachy. I think we found the right balance.”
Daybreakers stars Ethan Hawke as Edward (not to be confused with the Twilight vampire), an undead pharmacist experimenting on humans in order to find a cure for the living corpse condition that ails his kind.
Unlike his callous contemporaries however, Edward cares about humans and, after he inadvertently saves a gang of hunted, mortal rebels, becomes embroiled in a plot to put a stake in the heart of this new, twilight world.
“We got lucky with our cast,” says brother Michael of Daybreakers’ solid stable of actors, which also include heavy hitters Sam Neil and Willem Dafoe.
“It was an incredible thrill to have them on board. In Undead, we had a virtually non-existent budget and it was wild this time having a stable of people working for you who were this talented, both in front of and behind the camera.
“And if all goes well with the movie’s release, we might actually be able to make another one.”