Everyone can stop wondering what to do about the oil shortage, or the water shortage, or climate change. By 2019, we’ll all be vampires anyway, and we can all worry about the blood shortage!

Everyone can stop wondering what to do about the oil shortage, or the water shortage, or climate change. By 2019, we’ll all be vampires anyway, and we can all worry about the blood shortage!

They don’t give percentages, but at least 95% of the world is a vampire. Everything’s either dark or barely lit by faintly bluish lights, the rich have gotten richer while the poor have gotten poorer, and women’s liberation has gone back to about the 1940’s. (That happens a lot in these near-future flicks, though I have no clue why.) Vampirisim was also a serious blow to the anti-smoking movement — I guess if you’re already dead, for all practical purposes, why not indulge?

The last few humans are hunted so that they can be hooked up to machines kind of like the ones in the Matrix that keep them just alive enough to produce blood. Eventually, of course, these humans will die, but Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), head of Bromley Marks, the world’s largest producer of blood, hasn’t planned that far ahead and is just draining the last humans he has dry, hoping for a workable blood substitute to be developed.

Yes, there’s an obvious parallel to the real world there that we’re meant to catch, but I think it’s also a good example of the thought processes of your average bloodsucking creature of the night. Granted, I suspect Bromley (think Bram Stoker for the inspiration for the name, maybe?) was always something of a soulless bloodsucker, but overall I suspect all the tales, movies, and roleplaying games have it right — it’s a lot harder to empathize with anyone when you know your next meal is going to come from your former next door neighbor’s jugular.

It’s all terribly civilized, though, on the surface. You don’t sip directly from your former neighbor’s jugular; heavens no. He’s hooked up tidily to his machine, and you get a little splash of his Type B in your evening coffee. No muss, no fuss, and none of that silly hunting down one’s prey. That’s left to the professionals, namely the Army; of which Ed’s brother, Frankie (Michael Dorman) is a proudly serving member. But even the best soldier can’t find humans where there aren’t any, and the world is full of Blood Riots due to the growing shortages. Finally even the U.S. is running low, and of course we can’t have that.

Enter Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke, of Gattaca, a very good movie that you should really watch, if you haven’t already), a hematologist for Bromley Marks working on the aforementioned blood substitute. Being a blood doctor in a world full of vampires should make you something like a demigod, but Ed’s just a regular guy, with a boss demanding results, deadlines to meet, fangs, and glowing gold eyes, just like the rest of us. He can’t quite make the blood substitute work, and as it happens, all that outward civilization gets ripped away pretty quickly when there isn’t a steady supply of the red stuff.

Then Ed runs into (almost literally) a small group of fleeing humans, and that’s when things really get strange. He meets Audrey Bennet (Claudia Karvan, another in the long string of Australian actors who come to the U.S. so they can learn to sound American and steal all our jobs) and also Elvis. No, not that Elvis. This Elvis is Wlliem Dafoe, as Lionel Cormac, who his friends call Elvis. (Willem Dafoe, of course, is noted for being in the Spider-Man series of movies, and also for being born in Wisconsin.)

Elvis and Audrey think they might have a cure for the vampire plague — apparently that’s what it really is here, like how the zombies in 28 Days Later or Zombieland are actually sick rather than dead — but it’s a little rough around the edges and they need an expert like Ed to polish it up for them. Actually, “a little rough” isn’t quite the way to describe it. Fact is, if ever there was a case where the cure was worse than the disease, this is it.

The last third or so of the film is all about the blood. It’s everywhere. It gushes, it trickles, it drives men wild. Presumably it drives women wild as well, but there aren’t nearly as many of those around. Of course one expects blood from a vampire flick, but this is still kind of excessive. Okay, very excessive. The story’s also a little rushed in places, unfortunately; but then, it’s only 98 minutes long. I’d say that they’re looking ahead to airing it on network TV in a 2-hour timeslot, but I’m not sure that warnings would really cut it, and there’s just no way to edit out enough of that blood, I would imagine.

Three and a half idols out of five. My first thought was three and a third, but there’s a lot of good stuff that’s only touched on in the film. I’m hopeful that when the DVD version comes out, the director’s cut will be worth at least three and three-quarter idols, so let’s be optimistic. After all, the sun will rise again tomorrow.