There are a lot of movies and TV shows about vampires. However, there are slightly less movies and TV shows about vampire hunters, one of which I had the pleasure of starring in alongside a fellow Mildly Pleaser. Day Shift seems to be somewhat aware of this, as it digs a little deeper into the specifics of the vampire hunter lifestyle than that of the actual vampires they spend their time killing. Still, the movie is ultimately less concerned with world-building than it is with constructing some gruesome, gun-slinging action sequences paired with a decent amount of buddy-comedy laughs. In the end, it’s a bit of an uneven grab bag of styles, but one that hits the spot if you’re in for some bloodsucking fun readily available on Netflix.
Day Shift centers on Bud Jablonski (played by Jamie Foxx), just a regular dude who seemingly makes a living cleaning pools, but unbeknownst to his ex-wife and daughter spends his days hunting vampires. Since Jablonski isn’t able to make enough money on his own selling the teeth of the vampires he’s killed, he tries to get back into the vampire hunters’ union, which he was kicked out of for violating union regulations. His vampire hunting buddy “Big” John Elliot (Snoop Dogg) greases the wheels a bit at the union to get him back in, though while on the job he has to be shadowed by one of the union’s paper-pushing representatives, Seth (Dave Franco), which Jablonski of course isn’t thrilled about.
Because Jablonski is on such a tight leash, he’s relegated to working the “day shift” of hunting vampires for the union, hence the name of the movie. We don’t get too many details as to why the vampires are awake during the daytime, but you can kinda just make whatever assumptions you want to, since they at least spend all of their time indoors during the daytime. As Jablonski makes his way through a few vampire raids at seemingly innocuous suburban houses, he tries to show Seth the ropes of his grisly profession, but Seth is more or less useless when fighting off acrobatic vampires in a flurry of bullets and head-chopping. Meanwhile, there’s a business-like vampire named Audrey (Karla Souza) who’s on Jablonski’s tail after she finds out he killed some of her relatives in the opening scene and wants to establish some sort of ruling order by building a vampire army, though how she plans to go about this is pretty vague.
Day Shift is the debut directorial effort from J. J. Perry, who appears to be a very accomplished stunt coordinator, working on everything from Avatar to Django Unchained to multiple John Wicks and Fast and Furiouses. This is pretty unsurprising, since whatever shortcomings the movie may have in terms of overall storytelling, the action sequences are pretty breathlessly choreographed. I’m not sure that there’s anything particularly innovative about them, but they have this great blend of fluid motion and blood-splattering violence that help make the film ultimately a good time overall. There’s a particular action sequence when Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg go into full badass mode set to “Body Count’s In The House” by Ice-T’s titular rap-rock outfit, which hits the perfect vibe of being both fist-pumpingly awesome and self-knowingly stupid that I wish the movie hit a little more often.
As for the way Day Shift deals with vampire mythology, I’m a bit conflicted about it. On the one hand, I do appreciate that it doesn’t really go into much detail about how the vampires “work” in the reality Day Shift is set in, where there are seemingly just tons of vampires living in L.A. Especially when we’ve been inundated with tons of vampire media that makes explanation seem unnecessary, ranging from the sincerity of the Twilight movies (which the characters unsurprisingly riff on) to the more tonally similar satire of What We Do In The Shadows. But at the same time, just a few lines here or there that explained how this world came to be would have been nice. I also would’ve liked to know a little more about the operations of the vampire union, which is a fun idea that could’ve lent itself to more commentary on the constraints of overbearing bureaucracy.
But this movie isn’t quite clever enough to pull something like that off. As for the comedy elements in the film, there are a few decent laughs here and there. The chemistry between Jamie Foxx and Dave Franco is solid if nothing extraordinary, much like most of the elements of Day Shift. I’m not exactly sure what Foxx is doing starring in a relatively schlocky streaming movie at this point in his career, but perhaps blame it on the limitations of getting something less marketable off the ground during pandemic times or just the fact that it seems unclear what he wants his career to be at this point. Either way, his combination of movie star charisma and comedy chops makes the movie a lot more watchable than it probably would’ve been in the hands of a different star, while it’s similarly enjoyable to watch Snoop Dogg steal a few scenes, since it’s rare to see him acting these days in anything where he’s not more or less playing himself.
I guess one last thing I’m trying to wrap my mind around is why Day Shift feels like a low-budget movie when from what I could find, its budget was reportedly between $50 and $100 million. Maybe it’s because it was very clearly filmed during pandemic conditions, with its minimal sets and a bland slickness that for whatever reason can’t help but feel like it was made-for-streaming. That said, its bigger budget makes sense considering the elaborate make-up effects and action sequences involved; it’s just that I can’t help but wonder if the movie would’ve worked better if it tried to feel a little smaller at times.
I also can’t help but compare it to Nope, which had about the same budget but feels so much more cinematic, which might actually be due to it relying less on CG special effects as well as the fact that I actually saw it in a theater. Anyways, considering that we’ve chosen to review movies this Shocktober that were probably made in 2021 (or possibly even 2020), this is already not the first time we touched on a movie impacted by shooting horror during a pandemic, and I’m sure it will not be the last.