Every now and then you get a memorable performance in a forgettable film. Willem Dafoe’s in the gory new vampire flick Daybreakers is one of them.
SPOILER ALERT! The year is 2019, and most humans have turned into vampires. Slight problem: That means the blood supply is about to go extinct. A decent, chain-smoking vampire hematologist (Ethan Hawke) at a greedy corporation that farms humans for their plasma, needs to find a blood substitute to save both the human race and his toothy brethren. (Starvation degenerates the latter into naked, screeching, winged, bats— crazy beasts.) After a not-clandestine-enough meeting with Dafoe’s Elvis, a former vampire/gruff mechanic who became human again and rolled his jeans following a daytime car accident that involved burning and water, he learns there’s something better: A cure. Together — along with a woman you thought for sure would let a pointy-eared Hawke feed on her during sex but who only ended up cutting her wrist and bleeding into a cup (boo!) — they go on the run until they can recreate the conditions necessary to get Hawke a heartbeat. The situation gives a deadpan Dafoe the opportunity to deliver awesomely bad lines like the one he utters when Hawke asks him if the humans’ hideout is safe: Being human in a world of vampires is “about as safe as barebackin’ a $5 whore,” he says. Dafoe’s response when the human-hunting vampire army has zeroed in on their location, and Hawke wants to stay behind to finish the experiment while the others flee to a new place: “F— it, I do love a good barbecue.”
Despite a fairly decent twist (turns out the controlled-burning method isn’t the only cure), I wouldn’t tell anyone that they have to run out and see Daybreakers. Neither would EW’s Owen Gleiberman, who gave it a C. But I would say that Dafoe’s sound bites are worth catching on cable when the time comes. Are there any kitschy good performances in kinda crappy movies you’d like to single out? If we get enough nominations, we might be able to honor them in a “Reader Picks” EW.com gallery. (Hey, it’s something.)
P.S. If you’ve seen Daybreakers, would you agree that the opening credit montage revealing that the vampire epidemic started with one bat, plus the occasional appearances of bats throughout the film and specifically at the end, equals an attempt to leave the door open for a sequel? Is this something anyone is hoping for, even if Dafoe were to return?
Photo credit: Ben Rothstein