I’m not generally a fan of horror films. Gratuitous violence, gore, or mindless action bore me and I’m not entertained by the shrieking and shrinking terror of those who are still developing their pre-frontal lobes in sylph-like form. However, like so many, I am fascinated by vampire and lycan mythology, and often enjoy watching movies about vampirism and lycanthropy, in spite of the inherent violence and gore which accompany them. Movies containing moral and psychological conflict where the characters have to wrestle with their own beliefs, prejudices, and outcomes of choices they made really intrigue me. When a new mythological context for telling the vampire or werewolf story happens, and new dilemmas and complexities are explored, I can really sink my teeth into it and draw a lot from it.
Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.
“Daybreakers” is such a movie. When I saw the previews for it before finally seeing “After Earth” last week and I saw Ethan Hawke, Willem Defoe, and Sam Niel were portraying principal characters in the movie, I knew I wanted to see it. The quality and caliber of other characters I’ve seen them portray and movies they have been in served to whet my appetite and intrigue me about the movie.
I was given the opportunity much sooner than I expected when I told my cousin about it. She loaned me her new, unopened DVD on Friday, when Luna and I visited her on the spur of the moment and wound up hanging out for two or three hours. When LaLa and her SpiritLove decided to take Luna with them on their excursion yesterday, I finally had a few hours to myself and decided to watch the movie.
The year is 2019 and the world has changed and adjusted to what appears to have been a pandemic of vampirism. An infection that has left the nearly extinct, highly endangered human species as the only source of sustenance for 95% of the population.
The striking thing is that the people in the 95%, once becoming infected, adapted, adjusted, and accepted the change that stripped them of their so-called humanity. They continued operating and functioning as if nothing had fundamentally changed in their lives. There was little, if any, recognition that absorbing the changes and accommodating their new normal was a massive societal agreement to operate in denial of the inevitable devolution and destruction of themselves and their society.
Maintaining the facade of normality by getting up everyday, going to work, hiring military and police to round up and keep those affected by lack of access to the critical resource, called Subsiders, who are no longer able to fit in, appears to be the primary concern of most.
As human blood becomes more scarce and unobtainable, more and more of the population degenerate and devolve while the effects of the infection affect their brains and bodies and they are reduced to instinctive attack mode toward those who still appear to have what everyone needs to survive.
The symbolism and metaphors in this movie can be drawn in many ways:
• Amorality of corporations in conjunction with government preferring to seek answers that maintain status quo.
• The role and motivations of the power players in big pharma focusing on creating dependence on substitutes for symptom treatment over looking for cures, since cures will inhibit profit.
• People make awful choices, overriding the wishes, free will, and convictions of their loved ones, out of self-certainty, fear, and the need to be right.
• On a societal level, it’s easier and more acceptable to believe in and hide from the overt and immediate personal danger of a less privileged population fighting for survival than to recognize and hold our individual selves accountable for the part we play or taking personal action to create solution. We want someone else to blame, someone else to be responsible, and someone else to save us from our own folly, without expecting us to change.
The correlations of how members of our society criminalize the actions of those marginalized and devalued by the effects of poverty, mental illness, and the physical and psychological effects of these things are unmistakable.
One of the things that I truly appreciated about the movie is that it doesn’t oversimplify the cost and sacrifice necessary in order to hold onto hope, achieve solutions, and fight for the things that matter in affecting change. The solution and cure is unexpected and risky. Once cured, survival is not guaranteed, because the fight isn’t about obtaining a cure as much as it is about going against the established rule of might and those who have invested themselves in personal gain by maintaining the status quo.
The true horror in this movie is how easy it is to accept the unacceptable. The redemption comes once the hero understands his own capacity for change and acts on his convictions and values.
“Daybreakers” is rich and complex. This is a movie that has appeal to more than fans of the horror genre. It has sufficient violence and gore to satisfy them, but the exploration of relational dynamics between parent and child, siblings, societal classes, and racial tensions means it can appeal to a wider audience as well.