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dir-scr The Spierig Brothers
prd Chris Brown, Bryan Furst, Sean Furst
with Ethan Hawke, Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas, Vince Colosimo, Damien Garvey, Jay Laga'aia, Paul Sonkkila, Christopher Kirby, Robyn Moore
release UK 6.Jan.10, US 8.Jan.10
09/Australia Lionsgate 1h38
Matrix meets Underworld: Hawke and Dafoe
TORONTO FILM FEST
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Yet another entry into the post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie catalog, this stylish film at least has a sense of its own absurdity. While it plays everything dead straight, it also has a lot of fun with the rules of the genre.
It's 2019, and a virus has turned 95 percent of the population into vampires. The problem is that as humans become extinct the vampires are starving for blood. So haematologist Edward (Hawke) is looking for a blood substitute, driven for profits by his aggressive boss (Neill). Trials aren't going well when Edward runs into some humans (including Karvan and Dafoe) who have a radical alternative: a cure for vampirism. But Edward's human-hunting military brother (Dorman) isn't happy about this.
The Spierig Brothers shift from the outrageous Aussie-style comedy-violence of their 2003 gem UNDEAD to a more Matrix-like sleekness here, keeping the images gleaming and dark, with growling, gravelly performances and sinister undertones of a massive conspiracy. Sure, it's all superficial nonsense, but they play it for all it's worth, ramping up the action with gonzo chase scenes, outrageous gun battles and lots of fiery explosions as vampires burst into flames when they're exposed to sunlight (or wooden stakes).
Meanwhile, the cast is strong enough to add some emotional resonance to the corny dialog. Hawke has a nicely haunted attitude, and he and Dorman have a strong brotherly connection despite being on opposite sides of the battle. Neill, despite being the twitchy villain of the piece, also generates some introspection as he deals with his still-human rebel daughter (Lucas). Meanwhile, Karvan has a ball with the tough-girl role, and Dafoe chomps on the scenery hilariously as the crossbow-wielding hope for humanity.
No, this isn't much more than a guilty pleasure of a movie: silly and contrived, and more designed for the cool imagery than any sense of story logic. But there's also some subtext in the gung-ho, bloodthirsty military and corporate idiots who are willing to risk their species' survival for their warped values. And despite being faithful to the requirements of a vampire blockbuster, the Spierigs show a refreshing willingness to add a touch of black humour or true nastiness now and then.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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