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Australia/USA 2009
Directed by
Michael Spierig / Peter Spierig
98 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars


Synopsis: In the year 2019 most of the world's population has succumbed to a deadly virus which has turned them into vampires. Unaffected humans are in the minority, but are in hiding as they are hunted for use in vast corporate blood-producing factories. Chief vampire hematologist, Ed (Ethan Hawke), feels sorry for the humans and is working on developing a blood substitute. But when Ed meets humans Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and Elvis (Willem Dafoe) he discovers vital information that could change everything and which tests where his loyalties lie.

This film is a lot of fun and even has a few serious things to say about society, corporations, dwindling resources and ethical dilemmae. These vampires commute to work at night and when they must drive in the day, it is in specially modified cars that shield out the sunlight. Every day they line up at franchised coffee shops for their caffeine plus daily blood fix. Trouble is, with normal humans being only 5% of the world’s population, blood is rationed and the poorer folks who don’t get their ration turn into horrific, feral bat-like creatures called subsiders, who live in the subways, attack others, feed on each other and generally are the scum of self-respecting vampire society.  The general population is starting to panic at the dwindling of their vital resource; hence Ed’s work on a blood substitute.

There is ample gore for fans of splatter, but not so much that it goes over the top. Also there is tension a-plenty with some terrific action sequences, and a lot of old-fashioned shooting with bows and arrows specially designed to fell vampires. Special effects are subtle but strong – carefully crafted incisor teeth which all vampires sport, and eerily pale eyes are the giveaway as to who is vampire and who is human. The design of the feral subsiders is truly scary but we are also lured into feeling compassion for them, as they are rounded up, dragged into the sunlight, and made to immolate. The film’s overall design is sleek and streamlined, with a limited palette, but when the action moves to outdoors it is our recognisable Aussie bush where shooting took place (when not at the Gold Coast studios).

Great also to see our Claudia Karvan up there with such a notable cast. She is a strong woman who rises well to her role, while the ever-excellent Dafoe, Hawke and Sam Neill as Ed's boss, are really credible in their characters’ skins. This is what I liked so much. Along with the film’s general entertainment value is a plot that really drew me in. I believed in this society and saw the parallel between many of the issues they grappled with and our own world.

Sticking with the theme of their first film, the zombie horror flick, Undead (2003), the Spierigs prove that they have an excellent grasp of the genre. Even if you think this is not your bag, I’d say it’s well worth a look for its surprisingly good execution of a truly entertaining, imaginative and thought-provoking story.




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