We clock in to Day Shift as it seemingly looks to revitalize the vampire genre on the big screen or, in this instance, on the streaming screens. Not that the genre’s been dead, or undead for that matter, but… This surprisingly good horror comedy sets up another bloody franchise for Netflix to sink its teeth into.
The ironically named Bud Jablonski, portrayed by Jamie Foxx, is a vampire hunter disguised as a pool cleaner in the mean streets of L.A., extracting the fangs of different vampire species for cash. In order to keep Bud’s ex-wife from moving their young daughter to Florida, he must take advantage of one last one last chance from a friend in his Old Secret Vampire Hunting Agency to get the quick cash he needs to help make ends meet. Unfortunately for Bud, his most recent kill pits him against one of the oldest Vampires in L.A. who is now out for blood. Specifically his!
Nothing like a vengeance plot to make a vampire movie that much sweeter. While we’re far removed from the gory days of vampire flicks like Blade, Underworld, or even Twilight– which, funny enough, there’s a good joke riffing on the Twilight Saga in this film– Day Shift puts in overtime to set up a world ripe with potential. Does this live up to its fullest? No. But it still works, for the most part. First time feature director/long time second unit director, JJ Perry, successfully sells a Los Angeles that is completely overrun by the undead yet no one knows it. I like the sandbox we get to play in and the lore presented sets up enough goodwill to warrant future stories.
Where the film’s fangs lose some of its sharpness with Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten’s screenplay. Not sure where the script lost its bite, but the story lacks the finesse to fully flesh out the world to its bloodiest flavors. We’re introduced to the many machinations that make this agency tick– and vampires drink– yet are held back by clunky dialogue and contrived story beats that play it safe and miss the details needed to set these types of movies apart and make them feel more special.
Day Shift could’ve been Zombieland with vampires! Sadly, it isn’t.
However, what this film lacks in narrative synergy it more than makes up for in tone and action. The action scenes are fantastic! If you want blood, great kills, and kinetic action sequences, Day Shift is a feast.
Additionally, the ensemble fully embraces the zany and has a lot of fun. Foxx is still a classic leading man. The buddy cop comedy between him and David Franco is on point. And while all the jokes in this film, like why this black man is named Bud Jablonski, either land flat or don’t pay off at all, there’s enough physical comedy to make up for it.
All in all, Day Shift can feel conventional in structure and contrived in plot, but it’s a real killer with action and tone. It’s a violent and vengeful horror romp with cool stunts, charming performances and a little bit of a bleeding heart that’ll have you putting the stakes away and craving just a little bit more.