The Netflix horror-comedy features an enjoyable cast & a handful of decent fight scenes, but relies on a dusty, outdated script.
It’s fascinating to watch a movie that could have been made any time within the past 30 years. That’s not the same thing as “timeless,” I’m talking about a movie that just feels like the script lingered in development hell for possibly decades before finally getting made, with only the slightest bit of tweaking to bring it up to date. Netflix’s new horror-comedy Day Shift could have been made in 1996, 2005 or 2012, and the only thing that would need to be changed is the cell phone technology. Like a lot of Netflix’s original content, it’s polished, yet dull, with a budget that doesn’t explain how forgettable it is.
Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) is a freelance vampire hunter working undercover as a San Fernando Valley pool cleaner, and collecting vampire fangs to sell to pawnbroker (and apparent black market vampire fang dealer) Peter Stormare. Given said black market, and the fact that there’s a vampire hunter union, vampires are apparently a huge problem in the Greater Los Angeles area, although nobody seems to be aware of it.
Freelance vampire hunting and pool cleaning doesn’t pay the bills, however, as Bud is often reminded by his nagging estranged wife Joss (Meagan Good). She gives him a week to come up with $10,000 to pay for tuition and braces for their cute little daughter Paige (Zion Broadnax), or else she’ll sell their house and move with Paige to Florida. Though Bud’s been long kicked out of the vampire hunter union because (as you could probably guess) he’s a renegade who refuses to play by the rules, thanks to his friend and fellow hunter Big John (Snoop Dogg, probably the highlight of the movie) he’s able to rejoin, in the hopes of making some quick money.
Bud’s union boss, intent on making sure he screws up and is permanently banned, forces Seth (Dave Franco), a meek, nerdy union rep, to accompany Bud on his assignments and report back on the many codes he breaks. It’s dislike at sight for tough guy Bud and wimpy paper pusher Seth, who, despite working for a vampire hunger union, seems to be shocked and horrified to learn that vampires exist. This would be like someone working for the DMV and being shocked to learn that cars exist, but never mind. However, when it’s discovered that vampire real estate developer (a gag that’s perhaps a little too on the nose) Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza), thanks to a special sunblock, is able to move around during the day and plans to take over the city, Bud and Seth eventually see past their differences and team up to try to save the day.
Despite the presence of vampires, Day Shift goes very light on the horror. More than anything else, it’s yet another comedy about an irresponsible manchild who must prove himself as a grownup, combined with yet another comedy about an uptight dork who learns to relax. While Jamie Foxx is fine in the role, Bud could have just as easily been played by Eddie Murphy, Will Smith or the Rock, while Seth could have been played by Chris O’Donnell, Ben Stiller, or Michael Cera, and it wouldn’t have made a single bit of difference. Nothing, save for the use of iPhones, places it in 2022, and, in fact, the tired, gay-coded jokes about Seth carrying a “man purse,” buying $6 gluten-free muffins (which Bud promptly throws in the trash) and choosing suit colors according to how well they match his complexion age the script like a piece of moldy cheese.
While it does have some clever kills, including the use of garlic bombs and what appears to be bladed nunchaku, even the interminable vampire vs. hunter fight scenes become numbing after a while, as the vampires don’t attack so much as do parkour, flipping, spinning and doing flying kicks until they got shot or staked. As too often seems to be the case in made for streaming films, it’s about 25 minutes too long, with too much time wasted on arguments about union codes, Bud reiterating several times that he’s desperate for money, and one too many gags about Seth wetting himself in fear. These are curious things to focus on, particularly when references to vampire clan rivalries are mentioned, but never really elaborated, nor is it ever really explained what exactly Audrey’s plan for taking over the city involves. Like another recent made-for-streaming horror film, Peacock’s They/Them, an enthusiastic, likable cast is not to blame so much as a weak, derivative script.
Things do perk up a little bit in the last half hour or so, but it’s a big ask for the viewer to still be paying attention by that point. Nevertheless, Netflix originals seem to be critic-proof, and undoubtedly by this time next week a press release will announce that Day Shift was one of the streaming channel’s most watched movies (a made up statistic that cannot be proved or disproved), meaning a sequel and a prequel are all but guaranteed. Hopefully their scripts will feel like they were actually written in the 21st century.
Day Shift is now available on Netflix.