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Review: Daybreakers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Genova and The Necessities of Life

By August 18, 20102 Comments

I am sick of vampires. Sick to death. As a great philosopher once said, “What is point, vampires?” and I have to concur. They’re everywhere you seem to turn thses days and the most boring of the lot (the Twilight mob) are back in June to bore us all to death once again.

Daybreakers posterSo, my heart sank a little when I saw the trailers for Daybreakers, an Aussie horror about a world controlled by vampires, hunting and farming the remaining humans for their plasma. One of the pleasures of this gig is when the surprises are pleasant and Daybreakers definitely turned into one of those. Tightly wound and (for the most part) logically sound, the tyres have been well and truly kicked on the premise before the cameras (and digital compositors and Weta mask makers) got involved.

Ethan Hawke plays the Chief Blood Scientist for the big corporation that provides most of the world’s supply. Ten years earlier, an infected bat caused an epidemic which rendered most of the population undead — a few, like CEO Sam Neill went willingly when faced with the offer of immortality. Hawke is working on a substitute — he’s vegetarian in a human blood kind of way — and supplies for everyone are running low. When a renegade bunch of humans (led by Willem Dafoe) tell him about a possible cure he is forced to choose between his boss, his human-hunter brother and what’s left of his humanity.

As if Dracula had been produced by an economics professor, Daybreakers is an excellent international debut from The Spierig Brothers whose writing is as sharp as their direction.

Hot Tub Time Machine posterIf you liked The Hangover last year (and who didn’t), you’ll get a kick out of Hot Tub Time Machine, starring John Cusack and the manic Rob Corddry. Four friends head to the mountains to try and rekindle some of their lost youth: 25 years ago when they were all young, handsome and full of, what’s that word, potential. Their favourite resort has fallen on hard times though and it isn’t until a dip in a hot tub maintained by a mysterious (and welcome) Chevy Chase that the going gets good. When they wake up — they’re back in 1986 with a chance to fix a few of their many regrets.

A great premise is propelled by plenty of gags and some nice work from all the actors (the film really gains from Cusack’s soulful performance) but I get the feeling that nobody really knew how to end it. At least, the ending they’ve given us is deliciously amoral if not all that logical.

Genova posterMichael Winterbottom is one of my favourite directors (In This World, The Claim) but he has a few misses on his cv. We need to add Genova to that list. Colin Firth plays a widower who takes his family to a teaching gig in Italy to help them get over the recent loss of their mother in a car crash. The drama never really emerges and the shouty scenes that replace it are largely clichéd and overwrought.

The Necessities of Life posterFinally, a very worthy film from Canada called The Necessities of Life: in 1952, during a Canadian TB epidemic an Inuit man (played by Natar Ungalaaq from Atanarjuat) is sent away from his family and his home to a sanatorium. Nobody speaks his language, or is remotely interested in his culture, and so he begins to wither away — despite or perhaps because of the care he is getting. Eventually, a kindly nurse finds another patient (a young boy) who speaks his language (and French too) so his recovery can begin. Worth a look, but be prepared to be completely unsurprised by any of it.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times way back on the 21st April, 2010.


  • Craig Ranapia says:

    The really annoying thing about Daybreakers is that it’s two thirds to three-quarters of a really terrific film where some thought has gone into the world-building and design, and even a story that makes sense. (Really loved the opening where we watch a vampire commit suicide — because she can’t stand the thought of being a teenager forver. Which, when you think of it, is rather funny and bloody sad.) Then you have the sharp left-turn into standard issue (and not that well-staged) action beats and an ending that only made any sense as a hook for a sequel. Shame.