There’s a long history of vampire comedies at the movies from Abbott & Costello’s monstrous meetups to more modern gems like Fright Night (1985) and What We Do in the Shadows (2014). The majority of the subgenre, though, consists of misfires and DOA attempts at vamp-related laughs, so it’s always a good day when a new one lands delivering on both the comedy and vampire action. Day Shift is that new one, and while it’s fun and filled with fangy monsters, it’s the beautifully executed action scenes that see it rise above so many others.
Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) is a pool cleaner in sunny Los Angeles, and his number one priority is the young daughter he shares custody of with his ex-wife (Meagan Good). When Jocelyn suggests she may move the kid to Florida, Bud realizes he has to step up to earn more scratch. Lucky for him his real job — vampire killer, obviously — has no ceiling on how much he can earn, provided he doesn’t get himself killed in the process or piss off the Vampire Hunters Union. Saddled with a union observer named Seth (Dave Franco), Bud sets out finds some vamps, collect their fangs for a payout, and survive the wrath of LA’s most powerful vampire, Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza).
Day Shift succeeds as a mashup of action, horror, and comedy — prioritized in that exact order. The laughs are hit and miss, and the horrifying beats are more gory than scary, but the action? The sweet, sweet action? The extremely talented folks at 87Eleven (John Wick franchise; Atomic Blonde, 2017; Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, 2013) ensure the film is filled front to back with blistering fights, acrobatic vampire antics, and cringe-worthy carnage. This is no simple “stake to the heart” world, and killing these bloodsuckers takes a bit more effort with the result being an absolute blast for action/horror fans.
Director J.J. Perry is a big part of that drive towards action, and while this is his feature debut he’s no stranger to the genre. He’s worked as Second A.D. and/or stunt coordinator on plenty of gems including Spy (2015), London Has Fallen (2016), Spectral (2016), Gemini Man (2019), and more, and his instincts turn familiar scenes into exciting set-pieces with fights delivering a blend of slick choreography, pacing, and judicious CG use. Perry, cinematographer Toby Oliver, fight coordinators Felix Betancourt and Eric Brown, and numerous others deserve credit for crafting some fun and thrilling vampire encounters. The monsters move fast, contort in unsettling ways, and are prone to all kinds of glorious violence resulting in some electrifying action beats as bodies are tossed around with abandon.
Other highlights include a high energy car chase through L.A. delivering lots of speed and plenty of crashes on the road or down in the basin. The film also introduces some supporting players in the form of a new neighbor (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and a pair of jacked up Russian vampire killers (Scott Adkins, Steve Howey) known as the Nazarian brothers. The latter duo are only present for one scene — a damn shame, but hopefully they’ll be bigger players in a sequel? — but it’s a doozy as the gang falls under siege from a vampire hive. Adkins unleashes some of his martial arts mayhem, and Bordizzo holds her own in later fights too. A highlight through much of it is an effort to create action that brings its own smiles through creativity and style.
There’s a clear horror element at play in Day Shift, but it’s definitely a horror/comedy that leans comedic. The vampires aren’t aiming for scary here even if the effects teams (both makeup and CG) still go all in creating some solidly monstrous looks and gory demises. Numerous vamps are beheaded, dismembered, and blown away with bones snapping and flesh popping, and it’s a wild time. Those looking for gateway horror movies should consider this one as the entirety has a playful, fantastical bent that genre-interested kids will eat up.
Which brings us to the mixed bag that is Day Shift‘s comedy. The script by Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten aims for a pretty high rate of laughs, whether through dialogue or interactions, and enough lands to make it a fun watch. Some entertaining asides (a brief Twilight chat finds some laughs) and observations on vampire realities find a skilled practitioner in Foxx and friends, and nods to everything from Vamp (1986) to The Lost Boys (1987) add to the fun. And while Snoop Dogg is no acting giant, his presence earns some grins all the same as a western-loving vampire killer named Big John Elliott.
The comedic downside? Dave Franco. His whiny shtick is just excessively tiring, and it leaves you yearning for the wisdom of Michael Bay who was smart enough to kill Franco off in the opening sequence of 6 Underground (2019).
Day Shift makes an unobtrusive effort at world-building too — think John Wick-lite — and it bodes well for a possible franchise as there’s plenty left to discover and explore. It’s been a rough year for Netflix Original action movies as titles like The Gray Man and Carter left genre fans divided and very vocal, but this might be the first in a while that audiences can agree on. Action fans in particular should be more than happy with what Perry and the 87Eleven team deliver here.
Related Topics: Netflix