The figures moving in the darkened streets have pale skin, red eyes and nasty dispositions. Their delinquent children congregate in furtive groups, dressed all in black and smoking fiendishly. No, this isn't Paris, 2010, but somewhere in a desperate Earth future, circa 2019, when an outbreak has turned the world upside down.
Vampires, living by night, have taken over the political and economic levers while what's left of the human population lives in fear of being farmed for food. But the vampires' supply is running out, a situation that turns the stylish and mordant “Daybreakers” into more than just another fanged-creature feature, making it, for at least its first half, one of the most interesting sci-fi films in recent years.
The movie stars Ethan Hawke as Edward, the chief hematologist at a blood corporation analogous to Exxon, which is quickly running out of its profitable but nonrenewable red resource while trying to develop a synthetic that will save the population from starvation. Back at his corporately funded, cookie-cutter bachelor pad, Edward is surprised when a winged, rabid beast breaks in and attacks him looking for blood. The authorities arrive, explaining that the brute is the fate of any vampire who goes without human blood long enough, setting in motion the rest of the movie, in which Edward looks for a cure while his employers scramble to secure a replacement.
Meanwhile, a fanged evening news anchor informs the public that “investors are pulling their private stocks” from Edward's company, which soon “won't be able to meet the world blood demand.”
In 2019, the world could indeed be on the brink of running out of a viscous liquid it relies on for survival, an obvious and uncomfortable parallel frequently made by “Daybreakers.” It's a shame brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, who wrote and directed the movie, tied themselves to a formulaic late plot development, in which human and vampire forces square off. In its better moments, “Daybreakers” recalls such classics as “They Live” and “Gattaca.” It may not quite maintain that level of sophistication, but it could keep you up nights for more than one reason. (R) 98 min. HHHII