Posts Tagged ‘ethan hawke’

With the Oscar nominations having hit earlier the day of this writing, everybody’s talking about RomaA Star Is BornBohemian RhapsodyBlack Panther, etc. But there was a robbery committed in plain sight that seems to be going entirely unremarked-upon. I speak of the fact that writer/director Paul Schrader’s most remarkable film probably since Affliction, the criminally-underappreciated First Reformed, received precisely one nomination.

It’s in a category it could very well win, Best Original Screenplay — especially given that it won in same at the DGA Awards — but seriously : this is smart, nuanced, thought-provoking, intellectually and emotionally compelling filmmaking of the highest order, anchored by two incredibly strong central performances, pitch-perfect direction, and subtly impressive work by all and sundry behind the camera as the flick’s cinematography, musical score, editing, and production design are all in no way flashy, but essentially flawless.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I’m a little bit miffed.

For those unfamiliar with the plot particulars, Ethan Hawke exceeds any possible expectations in a stellar turn as the troubled Reverend Ernst Toller, who heads up a small upstate New York church that relies on tourism and the largesse of a neighboring “mega-church” for its survival. His house of worship is about to celebrate its 250th anniversary, and while he finds the celebrations commensurate with the “birthday” swiftly spinning out of his control, he’s also confronting his own crisis of faith engendered by the suicide of a disillusioned-with-existence parishoner named Michael (played by Philip Ettinger), a veteran who had fallen in with what’s derisively referred to as the “eco-terrorist” crowd after a stint in the military had run its course.

It wasn’t Michael who initially came to Rev. Toller for counseling, though, it was his pregnant wife, Mary (Amanda Seyfried, who, like Hawke, turns in career-defining work here), understandably conflicted with the idea of bringing new life into the world at the same that her husband seemed to be giving up on his. Mary and Toller develop a complex, multi-faceted and all-too-painfully-plausible relationship tinged with longing, desire, and a kind of mutual admiration, one shot through with with basic, elemental need for human connection with perhaps the only other person who can possibly come close to understanding their respective situations, but Toller is still struggling with the death of his son on the field of battle a good few years ago and the subsequent crumbling of his marriage, as well as his unresolved feelings for the musical director at the New Life “mega-church,” Esther (Victoria Hill). It’s a rich, thick stew of psychodrama that reveals just as much about its depth and character through the mannerisms, actions, even inaction of the principal players involved as it does by means of Schrader’s humanistic, melodrama-free dialogue.

The final ingredient, though, is certainly the most combustible and also the most tantalizing : Toller finds himself drawn toward the late Michael’s uncompromising ecological worldview, thanks in no small measure to the greedy machinations of local energy company magnate Ed Balq (Michale Gaston), who just so happens to be a major funder of New Life and a close friend of its lead pastor, Rev. Joel Jeffers (Cedric The Entertainer, credited here — appropriately, it seems to me — under his Christian name, Cedric Antonio Kyles). And guess where a whole bunch of the money for that big 250th anniversary extravaganza is coming from?

A bubbling cauldron is about to explode.

As the big day approaches, Toller finds himself going further and further off the rails, as well as deeper into the bottle, but a frightening medical diagnosis convinces him (perhaps ironically, perhaps not — it all depends on your point of view) that his path is set, his course clear, and the final act is a whirlwind of borderline-surreal storytelling and imagery that trusts viewers to make up their own minds rather than spelling things out in strict “okay, here’s what happened” terms. The ending itself has alienated some audiences and critics, it’s true, but for my money (not that I have a whole bunch), I wouldn’t have it any other way. Schrader has mapped out a trajectory for these characters and leaves it in our hands to determine exactly how they get to where they’re going. It all seems pretty damn clear to me, but I’ve read other reviews and essays on the film that posit different potential interpretations, and many make some very good points. So I’m just gonna leave it at “see it for yourself and make of it what you will,” since that seems the most honest approach to take.

And see it you definitely should. Whether on Blu-ray, DVD, or streaming on Amazon Prime, where it’s now available for members. You may not love First Reformed as unreservedly as I do, but you will be affected, and most likely impressed, by it. About the only thing I can compare it to in terms of its aesthetic sensibilities and understated-but-overwhelming emotional resonance is Ingmar Bergman’s finest work, and that’s high praise indeed coming from any quarter, I should think.

Oh, and if it doesn’t win at the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, there damn well ought to be an investigation.

?????????????????????????????

Before you say it, trust me, I already know — I’m pretty late to the party with this one. Anybody who was likely to see writer/director James DeMonaco’s The Purge in theaters (and apparently that’s a big bunch of “anybodys,” since the film did quite well and a sequel has already been announced for January 2015) has already done so, which means that most folks who end up reading this will be doing so either in advance of, or upon, its home video release, but what can I say? I just saw it today (at the last place in town it’s still playing), and I like to write about a movie when it’s still relatively fresh in what passes for my mind.

And truth be told, The Purge offers viewers a lot to think about. I know, I know — that sounds well-nigh impossible for a flick that’s come from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production house, but nevertheless, there you have it.

In a way, too, my late timing in getting around to this one is actually kind of fortuitous — I know, I know, I would say that —simply because I think this is a movie that takes on greater import in the wake of the ludicrous acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s cold-blooded murderer (and self-appointed vigilante guardian), George Zimmerman. And before you accuse me of bringing that whole subject up again too soon after my last rant about it during my Pacific Rim review the other day, please allow me to explain —

The basic gist here, as you’re probably already well aware, is that in the year 2022 some unnamed right-wing faction has taken over the US government and has adopted the most draconian measure for dealing with homelessness and unemployment one can imagine — they’ve instituted a program called, you guessed it, The Purge, which legalizes murder for one night a year. Okay, sure, they’re small-“d” democratic about it and anyone’s free to kill anyone else regardless of race, creed, color, or economic class, but you know how something like this is bound to play out — those with enough money to arm themselves to the teeth are going to go after the low-hanging fruit that can’t afford to do so.

At this point you could be forgiven for thinking that this flick sounds like it could join the likes of ConvoyAmazing Grace, and Eye Of The Tiger (to name just a few) in the wildly disparate movies-derived-from-songs sub-category, with the tune in question here being the old Dead Kennedys classic “Kill The Poor,” and ya know, I do hope that Jello Biafra and co. are getting some kind of royalties cut here, but in truth The Purge goes about its political messaging a bit less directly than DK did, and its populist, horror/SF-crowd-pleasing instincts certainly leave it open to an entirely apolitical reading if one so chooses.

But that’s not how we do things here, is it? The gated “community” that wealthy alarm-system salesman protagonist James Sandin (played by Ethan Hawke, who’s enjoying something of a surprise career resurgence in recent years as, of all things, a genre star), his wife Mary (Lena Headey), and their two kids reside in is essentially exactly the same as most of the atrocious “secure” compounds that protect the privileged from the society-wide results of their greed and avarice that we find littering the soul-dead landscape of suburban America today, the reticence to help a downtrodden person  (in this case a black homeless guy who’s also, at least if we’re to go by the dog tags he’s wearing, apparently a veteran) on Sandin’s part is all too believable, the silent acquiescence of an entire nation to acts of barabarism is too obvious a parallel to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to ignore, and watching all the rich motherfuckers turn on each other when the shit hits the fan later in the movie isn’t so different than what they tend to do when they all-too-occasionally get called on the carpet for their reckless financial shenanigans and start selling each other out to protect their own asses from litigation or worse.

I’ve certainly seen and heard reviewers describe the root premise of The Purge as being “unrealistic,” and express the opinion that, no matter how bad things got, we as a people would never condone such a thing, much less embrace it with open arms as the people in the film have done, but when you honestly look at the way society’s headed, how “far-fetched” is it really? America is inexorably bifurcating into a nation of a few “haves” and a great many “have-nots,” with inner-city neighborhoods where Purge-like activities play out on an almost  nightly basis existing at a “safe” distance from people who have retreated behind walls, fences, and armed checkpoints that we laughably describe as “visitor’s entrances” in order to shield their families from the realities of the system they’re profiting from.  And now look — even if you do manage to venture behind those barricades, unarmed and minding your own business, you’ll be summarily executed by a racist thug who won’t even be sent to jail for killing you in a fight he started (see, you knew I would get back to that). The only thing I find “outlandish” about this flick is that the government has been so egalitarian in who it’s decided is legal to kill for one night — even if , as mentioned, in actual practice it’s going to end up more often than not being exactly the people they want dead.

The Purge was an interesting and topical film, with more layers of subtext than than your average dozen horror flicks combined, when it hit theaters six or eight weeks back, but in light of recent tragic events it’s become, dare I say, essential viewing. My hope is that it wakes people up to the dangers, and the inhumanity, of the rapidly (and radically) economically-segregated society we’re becoming — but given that one of the previews before the movie was for an obviously-sanitized, fawning new biopic of multi-millionaire asshole Steve Jobs, I’m afraid it might be too late already.

reality-bites-movie-poster-1994-1020204685

I’m sure that if you’ve been following my —ahem! — “byline” both here on my own site and over at Through The Shattered Lens in recent days, it’s become painfully obvious that I’ve been on some sort of massive “Generation X” nostalgia trip lately, but rest assured, I think I’m pretty well cured of it and am more than ready to get back to yammering on about the kind of flicks we normally talk about around here.

How can I be so sure of this, you may wonder? Well, last night I watched 1994’s Reality Bites on our local cable on-demand menu (oh, and in case you were wondering why I didn’t provide any DVD/Blu-Ray specs for either of the Before films, or why I won’t be doing so for this one, either — now you know), and if there’s one thing — and I stress it’s only one thing — this movie’s good for, it’s for readily disabusing ex-slackers of any romanticized notions of our past.

Not that nostalgia is, in and of itself, all that bad a thing —- at least in limited doses. After all, reminiscing about one’s wasted youth makes for a nice change of pace from contemplating the state of one’s wasted adulthood. But honestly — if either myself, or any of my friends, were even half as self-absorbed, shallow, preposterous, and downright annoying as anybody in this flick is, it’s amazing that no one older and wiser decided to shoot any of us dead when we were 22, because we certainly would have deserved it.

Notice I used the carefully-chosen words “anybody in this movie,” rather than calling any of them proper characters, because they aren’t — the roles written by screenwriter Helen Childress are merely disjointed stereotypical collections of bog-standard “Gen X” tropes that are about as interesting and “authentic” as a Goo-Goo Dolls or Matchbox 20 album. Consider :

Winona Ryder plays Lelaina Pierce, a recent college grad trying to get her TV pilot project off the ground, who’s torn between two “romantic” interests — guitar-strumming “soul of a poet” dreamer Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke ), and not-as-cheesy-as-he-seems-at-first cable network producer Michael Grates (Ben Stiller , who also directed this mess — and of all this film’s sins, launching this almost pathologically unfunny, untalented cretin on the road to Hollywood superstardom is perhaps its greatest). She’s joined in going nowhere fast by her kinda-sluttier-than-you’d-at-first-expect best friend/roommate Vickie Miner (Janeane Garofalo), who’s only here to sweat the results of an AIDS test, and amateur cameraman pal Sammy Gray (Steve Zahn), who’s here to check the box marked “gay character included,” and together they try to navigate their way through the early-90s social landscape of noted slacker capital Houston, Texas. Renee Zellweger turns up in an early and largely pointless part, and the genuine talents of the likes of John Mahoney, Swoosie Kurtz, and the great Joe Don Baker are completely wasted in dull-as-unbuttered-toast “parents (and other older people) just don’t understand” roles.

If it all sounds vaguely insulting and aggressively uninspired, that’s because it is. I mean, my friends and I were capable of devising some pretty insipid ways to waste time when we were that age, but having rooftop sing-a-longs of “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?” and playing Good Times-themed drinking games didn’t even cross our dying-for-something-to-keep-us-preoccupied minds.

Still, I think it’s fair to say that the most perplexing thing about Reality Bites is how completely out of touch with its own subject matter it seems. Stiller was still in his late 20s or early 30s at the time, and Childress was an “X’er” herself, yet the whole thing plays out like a movie that was made by 50(at least!)-year-olds who were trying to cobble together a story based on what they’d heard the younger (at the time, mind you) generation was like. The only thing missing is a “who would you rather fuck, Ginger or Mary Ann?” conversation.

Anyway — sure, I’m still looking forward to Before Midnight. Who in their right mind isn’t? But I think I’ve had my fill of memory lane for awhile. Frankly, even imagining that I may once have been anywhere near as unbearable as any of these spoiled troglodytes is just too depressing a prospect to spend very much time considering.

before-sunset-movie-poster-2004-1020215600

When I got back to the US after spending 18 or so months abroad in 2005, Before Sunset had already come and gone from theaters the previous year, and to be honest, my first reaction to it was to be a bit perplexed by the whole idea. “Never saw that one coming,” I thought to myself — but I knew I had to see it. Yeah, as I said last time, I couldn’t really picture any other ending for Jesse and Celine apart from one where they absolutely had to have met up again six months later and lived, as the saying goes, “happily ever after,” but here we were, nine years down the road, with the real (well, okay, not “real” — it is a movie, after all — but you know what I mean) story of what came next. Fortunately for me, my very good (to this day) friend with whom I had seen Before Sunrise had missed this one in the cinemas, as well, so just a few days after getting settled back into my house, with almost no furniture in place, and my TV and DVD player only having been hooked up a matter of hours earlier, we kicked back and did a little marathon viewing session of both films back-to-back.

The first thing I was taken aback by was how much of an emaciated meth-head Ethan Hawke looked like this time around, and Julie Delpy looked to be bordering on “unhealthy thin” status as well, but no matter — for the next hour-and-a-half or so we were back in their lives, and they were back in ours, and even if everything wasn’t gonna be perfect, it was all gonna be good enough.

Which isn’t too bad a summation of Before Sunset as a whole, with one added caveat — “good enough” can be pretty damn beautiful in its own way. Jesse’s an author know, touring Europe to promote his new book, an obviously-autobiographical account of two strangers who meet on a train, spend an evening in Vienna, and fall deeply, passionately, and completely in love. Then never meet again. Or maybe they do. The novel’s ending is deliberately ambiguous.

Sound familiar? Anyway, on the last night of his tour he happens to be giving a reading/signing in Paris, and Celine shows up. They have just enough time, it seems, to grab a cup of coffee before he’s on a plane back home, and the motif of “stolen time” that they should never have had in the first place that runs through the first film is definitely pressed even further this time around, as events unfold very nearly in real time and every minute our two long-separated lovers spend together is one that pushes the envelope of their “real lives” even further out of shape.

I have to be honest — on first viewing this ultra-compressed time frame gave things a very rushed feel that I wasn’t terribly “in to,” but  I’ve subsequently grown to appreciate its utility as a story-telling device more and more. Jesse’s got a wife and son back home, but it’s a sham marriage where they’re both just going through the motions, while Celine, who now does some sort of unspecified work for an environmental organization,  has a boyfriend who works as a photojournalist and is basically gone all the time. She couldn’t make it back to Vienna to meet him all those years ago because her grandmother had just died, while Jesse showed up and couldn’t find her, even going so far as to post missing persons flyers around town in hopes of tracking her down. And that “missed meeting” has informed and shaped the course of their lives every bit as much as the time they actually did meet.

Once again,  Richard Linklater’s superbly subtle eye ensures than the camera is in exactly the right place for maximum dramatic impact with every shot, but giving the proceedings an even more naturalistic flow here is the fact that there’s no Linklater/Karen Krizan script to be read — rather Hawke and Delpy were allowed to “get in character” and create their own dialogue for these people they knew so well. It works like a charm, and the whole thing feels like nothing so much as an expertly-filmed conversation between two old lovers that unfolds as they hurriedly stroll through the streets of Paris. Every second counts. Every word counts. Ever movement and expression counts. Everything counts. Even if it’s delivered with the more practiced nonchalance that most of us acquire as settle into what life is rather than dream about what it could be.

With both characters now in the early 30s, those possibilities of which I speak have narrowed considerably compared to last time around, but I think that’s the whole unfolding theme of this entire series — learning to find a place for dreams, and for love, in a world that whittles away the chances at achieving both as the years go on. A search for beauty and truth and meaning by projecting our hopes and ideals into visions of a world that we wished existed inexorably giving way to a life where we can still, hopefully, search for — and maybe even find — beauty and truth and meaning in a world that already exists.  It’s painfully obvious that both Jesse and Celine have never really “moved on” from their one magical night together, and that they’ve both dreamed of an existence where they were able to meet again ever since. Jesse’s stumbled into a responsible “family man” life simply because he saw it as all that was on offer anymore, and Celine’s carefully walled herself off from real emotional connection with others simply because it all hurts too much when they inevitably leave. Both are hopelessly infatuated with a memory, yet torn apart by it at the same time,  and are  now presented with a very rare opportunity in life — the chance to rekindle that memory, actively, in the present day, and maybe — just maybe — build on it. They both share the unbreakable bond of one moment in time that’s authored every moment since. And now, finally meeting again after all these years, wouldn’t ya know it — they’re in a hurry.

Imperfect circumstances for two people leading imperfect lives that have largely been a series of imperfect reactions to one perfect evening. Celine’s completely neurotic, Jesse’s completely resigned to his fate, and yet — the spark is still there. Their time together here is often painful, argumentative, and decidedly uncomfortable, but it all feels so almost unbearably authentic that you can’t help but become just as swept up in it as you were by that night in Vienna.

All of which leads to an ending you can’t help but love, despite the enormous complications you know it will present to both of these characters’ lives. Linklater is obviously trading in reversals with Before Sunset from the outset — showing us still-frame shots of where our couple will go at the beginning rather than showing us where they’ve been  at the end, and swapping out talk of what they want their lives to be with a litany of regrets over what their lives have become, but whereas their first meeting was a luminous evening capped off with a separation, their second is a rocky, tenuous, long-delayed and frankly even a bit faded afterglow that Jesse purposely blows off his flight home to stay in. This is no longer an idealized memory, or a painful reminder of what might have been — this is here. This is now. This is real life with all its flaws and foibles and tragedies and responsibilities. And these two are in in together.

As with all things as we get older, moments of revelation and life-altering decisions become more subtle and unpronounced in their execution, but their impact is every bit as real. When Celine tells Jesse “you’re going to miss that flight,” and he replies “I know,” it’s not tinged with the momentous import of every new character revelation we enjoyed in their first outing, but it sure does resonate at least as much as any of them, if not moreso. These people are grown-ups now. Their actions matter. And our reactions to them are consequently more complex and nuanced. “Dude, you’re fucking your life up big-time here” is answered by “but you’ll be fucking it up even more if you leave.” I was, and still am, elated by his choice, despite its implications, and am eagerly awaiting the next chapter in this story with a burning interest I haven’t felt for any other film in years. Before Sunrise left me in love with an idealized vision; a dream. Before Sunset left me in love with the real world and all the possibilities that still exist within it.

Quick question : why do you go see horror films? If you’re anything like me, you don’t expect these things to actually, ya know, scare you anymore, so what’s the point?

I ask this question now because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot for the last 24 hours since seeing director Scott Derrickson’s Sinister. Why? Because this thing actually is scary. And not just in the “jump-outta-your-seat” sense, although there are a few good “cheap scares” of that variety, to be sure. No, it’s the underlying concept here that’s so frightening.

Granted, that wouldn’t really matter if the standard bases weren’t covered so well, but rest assured they are — the casting is pitch perfect, with a decidedly unhealthy-looking Ethan Hawke starring as true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt (admit it — you hope he dies on the basis of that name alone), who gets the less-than-bright idea of moving his fucking  family into the house of the latest atrocity he’s investigating (a family was hung from a tree in the backyard and their toddler-age daughter has been missing ever since), turning in one of those increasingly-unhinged performances that really rings true; Juliet Rylance hitting the admittedly predictable but well-done notes as his long-suffering wife, Tracy; and (thankfully) failed Presidential candidate Fred Dalton Thompson putting in a nicely believable turn as the local redneck sheriff.

In addition, director Derrickson has the whole “ramping-up-the-tension” thing down really well, and all the small-but-necessary touches such as moody lighting, minimalist settings, and a damn creepy musical score are present and accounted for. So, hey, on paper, it all looks good, right?

But then, the same can be said for dozens, even hundreds, of horror films over the last few years that have still, at the end of the day, fallen short when it comes to really delivering the goods. The same can’t be said of Sinister, and as mentioned earlier, I think it’s largely down to the fact that the main concept underpinning the proceedings here is both horrific in and of itself and, strangely enough given that it’s based in (fictionalized) ancient superstition, believable. You can see this kind of shit going down in the house next door, and you might not necessarily even know that it’s happening.

That, right there, is why Derrickson and his cohorts should take a bow for their efforts here. They’ve managed to deliver a story that, sure, is fantastic, in and of itself, but is also one that we can all relate to, featuring characters we can easily relate to, as well. The end result isn’t just the scariest thing to come out of a major Hollywood studio in 2012 (hell, in the past several years, truth be told), but also one of the most inventive, most creative, and most well-executed. I can’t recommend it highly enough. So why, indeed, do we really go see most horror films? There are probably countless reasons, but  Sinister is a stark reminder than any of these flicks that don’t actually scare us are really just wasting our time.

"Daybreakers" Movie Poster

I know, I know — I need to try a little harder, don’t I? Not just to post more often (my apologies for the absence the last few weeks, busy times here at TFG “headquarters”), but to come up with some better titles when I do get around to it. Putting “bloody” in the title of a review about a vampire movie is just too damn obvious. Why, you might even say it’s too bloody obvious. In which case, you’re just as guilty of stark unoriginality as I am, and I suddenly feel a whole lot better. Even if the “you” in this case is wholly metaphorical and I am, in reality, having an imaginary conversation with myself here. In which case I shouldn’t be worrying about my lack of creativity, but rather my sanity, which some — like the imaginary “you” I’m talking to here — might argue is a much more serious concern. But I don’t think so. Being unoriginal requires no effort, while insanity — well, folks, that takes real work. And wouldn’t you — whether “you” are real or imagined — rather be crazy than dull?

But back to our actual order of business here. I went out and caught “Daybreakers” today, which I actually meant to get around to last weekend, but didn’t get the chance.  Incidentally,  did you know that there are movies other than “Avatar” playing right now? I swear to God there are, it’s just that no one is seeing them.  And less than nobody is seeing “Daybreakers,” apparently. It’s absolutely tanked at the box office. Which is a shame, because it’s really pretty damn good.

First off, I should confess to an editorial bias here — I’m tired of all these romanticized portrayals of vampires we’ve been getting ever since the heyday of Ann Rice. She really set the table for that genre, but crap like the “Twilight” series and HBO’s “True Blood” have piled it up on us like a Vegas buffet. I’m not sure what makes so many people think somebody who wants to kill you and drink all your blood is sexy, but it definitely fits in with my overall view that society as a whole has a serious goddamn death wish. Sorry, but vampires were better when they were scary. Just ask Bela Lugosi. And they were way better when they didn’t live in the South. Louisiana and Alabama really aren’t good for much of anything at all, much less as settings for vampire stories. Sorry, but that’s just a fact.

To be fair, there have been a handful of movies in recent years that have tried to combat this sorry trend and give us a new angle on genuinely scary vampires. John Carpenter’s “Vampires” and 2008’s “30 Days Of Night” spring immediately to mind. But to date this reviewer thinks “Daybreakers” does the best job of reintroducing the audience to the classic, frightening vampire in a new and unexpected context.

The year is 2019. A plague of vampirism has consumed almost the entire human race. Sure, people you always suspected were vampires anyway — cops, bosses, politicians — have succumbed, but most everyone else has, too.    What few humans do remain are hunted and stored to be drained of their blood, which has become the most precious commodity on Earth (okay, so basically what we’ve got here for a premise is “28 Days Later” with vampires instead of zombies, but hey, it works). Unfortunately, all us regular folks have been reduced to near-extinct levels, and that spells trouble for both the few of us who do remain as well as our vampire overlords, being that they, you know, need us to survive and all that.

Wait. Vampires are undead. So can we really call what they do “survival?” I guess so, we just can’t call it “living.” But I digress.

Anyway, the powers that be figure that inventing a synthetic blood substitute is the best way to keep on (un)living, so to that end research scientist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is busy trying to come up with just such a concoction for his boss, ultra-wealthy vampire industrialist Charles Bromley (Sam Neill).

Which brings us, rather directly, at least in a thematic if not linear fashion(can something be both direct and nonlinear at the same time?), to the film’s one glaring weak point : while things start off in a very promising fashion, with the opening scene portraying a young girl of about 10 or 12 years old who has decided to commit suicide by going out and facing the sunrise, thus ensuring that she burns to a crisp, after that the movie resorts to some pretty bulky and clumsy expository info-dump dialogue, not too terribly dissimilar to the kind of plot recap you just read above, in order to fill in as many of the “blank spots” in terms of its backstory as possible.But since we’re not quite done with the plot recapping yet —

Dalton isn’t all that thrilled about his vampirism and falls in with a human resistance group due to an accidental set of circumstances that results in him meeting one of the few remaining regular people out there, one Audrey Bennett (played by Claudia Karvan). Soon the two of them are on the run from the entire vampire military-industrial complex, and along the way pick up another human rebel,  Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe, essentially playing the exact same type of character he did in David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ”), who it turns out actually used to be a vampire but was able to regain his humanity through a set of circumstances I really shouldn’t (and therefore won’t) give away, and the three of them hook up with the rest of Audrey’s little “insurgent cell,” who have holed up at what used to be her parents’ winery.

Once (semi-) safely ensconced there, Dalton, now knowing that vampirism can be reversed,  sets about the task of not only curing his own condition, but mass-replicating said cure for the public at large. It won’t be an easy task, though, not with thousands of troops, lead by his own brother, heading for them like — well, like thousands of troops tend to.

So we’ve got pretty solid tension, an interesting enough plot premise, certainly solid if unspectacular performances from the leads (although Sam Neill stands out as the evil vampire version of Daddy Warbucks), and really some pretty cool visual effects throughout, as well. The movie was directed by Australia’s Spierig Brothers (and filmed Down Under, as well, even though the setting is obviously supposed to be the US), who last gave us 2003’s criminally underappreciated zombie flick “Undead,” and seem to be doing their level best to resurrect the Ozploitation genre, all wrapped up visually arresting muted hues.

"We're the guys with the crossbows."

If that’s all not enough, we’ve got crossbows penetrating vampires through the heart and making them explode. We’ve got humans being devoured raw. We’ve got lots of gore and viscera and, most importantly, lots and lots — and lots — of blood. And we’ve got vampires who are in no way sexy, dangerous rogues, and are, instead, bloodthirsty monsters. As they fucking well should be.

Sure, “Daybreakers” has its flaws in terms of some clumsy, wooden, overly-expository dialogue, and the pace lags in some spots where it shouldn’t, so while it doesn’t rise to the level of a  new genre masterpiece, it definitely helps balance the scales with all the lovey-dovey, misty-eyes portrayals of vampirism that are polluting the cinematic landscape, and it’s an effectively atmospheric, damn solid little piece of work.

Oh, and I almost forgot — it’s a hell of a lot better than “Avatar,” too.