Day Shift review: Netflix vampire movie lacks the eccentricity and shlock appeal it so desperately needed

·3 min read

Dir: JJ Perry. Starring: Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Snoop Dogg, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Meagan Good, Karla Souza, Steve Howey, Scott Adkins. 18, 113 minutes.

Day Shift made me yearn for the Eighties, a decade I wasn’t even alive for. And that’s not because there’s any consciously crafted nostalgia at the core of this vampire-comedy, though its final line references a pinnacle of the genre, Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987). Day Shift made me yearn for an era when this sort of original, light-horror filmmaking would be taken seriously. Where it would have been invested in, both creatively and financially. Where it wouldn’t have been dumped on Netflix on a Friday morning like a bit of nuclear waste, something to expel in order to fill up all those empty rows on the homepage.

Certainly, its premise is workable enough: a gung-ho vampire hunter (Jamie Foxx’s Bud Jablonski) is forced to team up with his pacifist pen-pusher colleague (Dave Franco’s Seth), in order to restore his reputation among the elite of bloodsucker exterminators. You see, even the paranormal realm doesn’t spare the working man – if he can’t raise the $5,000 needed to pay his daughter’s (Zion Broadnax) tuition, his ex-wife (Meagan Good) is relocating both her and her child to Florida. Snoop Dogg is also there, as gunslinger-type Big John Elliott, putting in exactly as much effort as he did into those Just Eat ads. Meanwhile, alpha-vamp Audrey (Karla Souza) threatens to dominate the human race through the most malevolent means possible – real estate development.

Day Shift’s director, JJ Perry, is a stunt performer turned first-time director, with fellow stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski (of John Wick) clocking in time as a producer. The film’s action, then, is both its selling point and its strongest element. But it’s hardly its saving grace. Knowing how to choreograph a fight involves a very different skill set from knowing how to capture that same fight on film. Perry’s work is littered with cool-sounding ideas – like throwing a bullet so it lands perfectly in another gun’s chamber – but they’ve all been shot with the flatness of a house tour video (I say that specifically because one of the setpieces takes place in a suburban mansion, and I caught myself becoming far more invested in the floor plan than in the vampire slaying).

Perry, alongside the film’s screenwriters Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten, clearly had the likes of From Dusk Till Dawn, Fright Night or even The Monster Squad in mind as their cultural touchstones. But the film’s artificial slickness, with that orange-and-teal hue that plagues so many Netflix action movies, robs Day Shift of the tactile shlockiness that it needed to actually work as a throwback. It also lacks any of the necessary eccentricity needed to make either its characters or its world pop off the screen. Beyond Peter Stormare, playing the exact variety of sleazeball he’s played in a hundred other fantasy films, everyone here seems unusually subdued – especially Foxx and Franco. Both actors can do manic when it’s asked of them, but here they feel less like a comedic odd couple and more like two people who are just mildly irritated with each other.

And I hate to ask for this, in a world where an excess of lore has been the downfall of so many projects, but Day Shift lacks any sense of context to what exactly this vampire hunter union is or does. Why are there portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass hung up on the office walls, right next to some crusty, antique weapons? Is this organisation connected to the government, like a paranormal Men in Black? And why, most importantly, when Seth monologues on the greatness of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, does he make no reference to the cursed Renesmee puppet that’s been haunting the internet ever since the film’s release? You just wish someone had cared enough to mention it.

‘Day Shift’ is streaming on Netflix now