April, 2019. It's now a decade since the outbreak began, and the world is in crisis. Humans are in short supply, which is bad news for the ruling vampiric population. Although companies like Bromley Marks are working on substitutes like haemocilin, they can't come soon enough for those dying of blood deprivation.
Chief haematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is having doubts any substitute can be found and that his company actually wants one. After all, the shortage is pushing up the price for blood and they own the biggest human-processing plants. A reluctant convertor to vampirism, he still harbours hope that he and others can get back their humanity.
With impressive visuals by Weta Workshop, a weighty cast that includes Hawke, Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe and a shock scenario that involves humans being farmed for their blood, it's clear that the Spierig brothers (Undead) are trying to emulate The Matrix's success of a decade ago.
Unfortunately, Daybreakers lacks two vital things - any sense of a coherent style and any hint of innovation. Yes, rather than being groundbreaking, the film feels like a throwback to the sci-fi/horror films of the 1980s. And while the noirish world drained of colour might echo Blade Runner, the film's mix of ironic humour and arch dialogue is more like a mish-mash of Robocop, Total Recall and Fright Night.
Even the actors seem at odds with each other as to what kind of film they believe they are in. Hawke seems to think he's back in Gattaca, New Zealand's Neill (playing a head vamp) seems to relish being back in Omen III territory, while a jarring, goateed Dafoe acts like he's in a John Carpenter film (Escape to New York, Big Trouble in Little China) with all his bravado and bullish dialogue.
So while Daybreakers may look rich in detail, all its entertainment value is drained by an anaemic story and characters.