In Daybreakers, the world has fallen victim to a plague that has turned everyone into vampires, giving them rule over society. Because so much of the population consists of vampires, however, the supply of blood is running out, and scientists are working around the clock to find a blood substitute before there is no more human blood left. Over the course of the movie, Ethan Hawke’s character, a hematologist, falls in with a small pack of humans hiding from the vampires and attempting to find a cure for vampirism, which he eventually discovers. Daybreakers, despite being a low-rent science fiction horror movie on the exterior, actually a very biting commentary (pardon the pun) about consumerism and the war for oil.
Despite the relatively camp genre that this movie is stuck in, it actually has quite a few things to say about the way our society works, and it does it in a subtle manner. The production designer and filmmakers took great care to imagine a world that would be run entirely by vampires, and adapted our modern society to fit their new lifestyle. Blood is now mixed in coffee, leading to the same frenzied riots we see in coffee shops today when an order is made wrong. Cars are now outfitted with completely tinted displays and full GPS navigation, so that vampires can drive around during the day without getting burned. Humans are farmed for their blood, keeping them alive so that they can continue to produce more of it – at the same time, contraband blood is smuggled back and forth all the time, and is treated as a commodity. Blood becomes a dwindling natural resource.
This blood scarcity problem makes up the main conflict in the majority of the movie, and provides the most interesting parallels to our society’s obsession with oil. Blood in this film, like oil, is rapidly running out, and the leading minds of the world are attempting to either find other sources or alternative fuels to work with. At the same time, they are lying to the public and spinning the truth, making Joe Vampire believe that there is still plenty of blood to go around. There is still that same divide between what the media spins to the average citizen, and what the higher-ups in corporate and government America know to be true.
In Daybreakers, the filmmakers manage to surpass the lowered expectations of what typically comes out of the genre (harmless, inoffensive bloodfests) and manages to portray a layer of subtext and social commentary that makes it well worth a watch. It manages to portray the desperation that humankind (or former humankind) will feel when we start to really feel the strain of our dependence on oil as a society, especially when it runs out. By masking it as a standard vampire movie with plenty of gore and action, the message is able to come across much clearer without seeming heavy-handed or trite.