Day Shift is the upcoming horror comedy for you to watch, and it is full of montages of downtown Los Angeles, a terrific soundtrack, and a vampire-hunting cowboy cameo by Snoop Dogg. Presented by J.J. Day Shift, directed by Tyler Perry and starring Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, and Karla Souza, is an entertaining spin on the buddy-cop cliché. It reinvents the vampires we are familiar with in order to present a magically realistic world. This is an escape-oriented film.
Some Jobs Really Go for the Throat: Day Shift (2022)
Budd Jablonski, a pool cleaner in contemporary San Fernando Valley, is played by Jamie Foxx. But he is more complex than first appears. When Jablonski is working on a pool, he is shown lifting a dead raccoon out of the water and glaring angrily at it. We will quickly see why he is definitely not the right person for the position.
Bud finds a black bag hidden behind his cleaning supplies that contains knives, shotguns, and a machete as he discovers that a car parked outside the next house departs. He dons his stealth gear and enters the home forcefully. He glances about the house; with its Victorian-era wallpaper and decorative dolls, it appears moldy and even a little eerie. God only knows why he ties a string around his neck and crosses a hallway.
He is stumbled upon by an elderly woman who is afraid and confused and is searching for Michael. However, much to the audience’s surprise, Bud shoots at her, knocking her back 10–12 feet into the wall. The woman is motionless for a brief while before her hand suddenly zaps with energy.
As she stands up on her own two feet, her bones jangle and realign, her skin burns and turns gray, and her eyes blaze red as the bullet hole in her torso heals into skin that resembles tar. She then hisses at Bud while flashing her disproportionately big canines. Without a doubt, that is a vampire. The first action scene in the film occurs as she charges at him. And what a watch, too!
The two start a riotous, almost rhythmic, body-bending, wall-breaking exchange. While the vampire is unarmed, Bud uses knives and firearms to fight; yet, this only serves to highlight the vampire’s true potential. It recovers after each wound. She does not actually die until Bud drives a spike into her chest and uses a silver-lined katana to behead her.
That is, for the second time. When Bud stops to regain his breath after she has passed away and a second vampire enters from behind him, he sprints toward Bud before stopping suddenly once he reaches the hallway. His body hangs in the air as he tries to understand what has happened to him. Bud shoots him, and he drops dead, his head and torso detached. So turns out, that’s what that string does.
Bud plucks out their fangs and keeps them in a metallic vial. “Money”, he exclaims in hope. Comically donning a set of floral pajamas from the elder Vampire’s closet, Bud loads his truck with his supplies and drives into the LA sunset.
On the other side of town, things take a darker turn, if that is even possible. We see a vampire with the visage of a middle-aged man, tied to a steel frame that binds him to a hole in the ground. And above him, unadulterated sunlight. His skin is steaming and he looks like he is in excruciating pain.
A woman walks in. Played by none other than Karla Souza, the character of Audrey San Fernando wears a bold coloured business suit and holds an umbrella. She has bright red hair and is covered in gold jewellery, her silhouette screams success. She refers to the entrapped vampire as Sasha and taunts him for his decisions. Sasha begs for mercy and says he agrees to her terms, but it is already too late according to Audrey. The hole in the ground is filled with concrete and Sasha’s pleas quickly turn silent.
But in their conversation, what she alludes to is not completely clear. And this is a recurring trend throughout the film. We can take a mean guess and infer that Audrey is a vampire and star realtor, her plan of making the valley more inhabitable for Vampires is something she will never give up on. But we never find out why she kills Sasha, or let us say, freezes him in concrete, as he would probably still be alive.
While this format of storytelling does leave a lot of questions unanswered, it can be a good tool for efficient and fast worldbuilding. Screenwriters Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten use this constantly; they throw in tidbits of dialogue that raise a hundred more questions and establish curiosity. The audience is left to draw their own conclusions, and you know what? It isn’t a bad thing at all.
Bud returns home in a hurry, his landlady asks for his rent, to which he gives a rushed nod, signalling the financial problems he may be facing. He goes straight into the shower, where at first, he cleans himself with a turmeric-coloured powder which seems to have a burning effect on his skin and dresses his wounds. He goes out again, this time, to pick up his daughter, Paige, from school.
While the two spend time getting yoghurt, it is evident that Bud cares for his daughter above all else. He brings her home to his ex-wife, but the two end up having an argument. Joss wants to sell the house and move to Florida to be with her mother. She needs money to pay for Paige’s tuition and braces, an almost inordinate sum of ten thousand dollars and without selling the house, there is no way she could do that.
But these terms are unacceptable to Bud, who can’t stand to be away from Paige. He begs his wife to give him time till Monday to get the money and hurries to see what he can do.
He pulls up outside what appears to be a pawn shop. Inside, he meets the owner, Troy. Bud shows him the vampire fangs, hoping to rake in some fortune. But to his dismay, Troy refuses to pay him fairly. He tells Bud that the prices he claims are only valid in the ‘union’. But what is the union? Bud reminds Troy that he cannot go back there after everything he’s done and the two have a disagreement. Bud tries to sell him other things like his equipment but he just can’t be lucky. By the end of it, Bud sells Troy his shoes and walks out barefoot, metal canister still in hand.
In the car, he grows tenser, he has to reassure his daughter that they aren’t moving anywhere but can’t seem to reassure himself. In a last and desperate attempt, he texts a friend named Big J and asks him for help.
Next, we see several cars pull up outside a suburban-looking house. Audrey steps out, dressed in bright red and is accompanied by another man, as they strut inside. But inside, lies her worst nightmare. The old woman that Bud killed earlier? That happens to be Audrey’s daughter. Audrey is visibly livid; she sheds a bloody tear and grieves the death of the one thing most precious to her. They figure out that it could only be a one-man job. “Find him”, she hisses to her companion as she tastes Bud’s blood, thirsting for revenge.
Snoop Dogg plays the character of Big J, a famed vampire hunter and an old friend of Bud’s. The two meet outside a laundromat and their dialogue suggests that they have both worked for the union together until Bud got kicked out. They walk into the store and Big J immediately showcases his playboy aura. They go through a secret door and walk into a gigantic room. The room is decked with wooden walls and old-century architecture. People are sitting around poker tables with cigars, while the two walk down the hallway and discuss just how much the place has changed. This is the vampire hunters’ union, hundreds and thousands of human beings that take down vampires across the globe.
But there is a slight problem. Union manager Ralph Seeger quite literally hates Bud. Bud has had a history of violating union rules which Sager cannot look past, stating that Bud’s track record guarantees him a permanent suspension from the union.
After heavy persuasion from both Bud and Big John, Seeger finally agrees to give Bud another chance at working for the union. Although, he fully believes that the next time Bud falters, he will be there to catch him in the act. Bud’s contract, however, comes with some terms, number one, he has to be assisted by a union rep at all times during his operation and number two, he has to take the day shift.
The union rep that Seeger has in mind for Bud is a desk jockey named Seth. Seth, at first glance (and probably for all consecutive ones), is perhaps the worst person for this job. We first see him as Bud stands in line to sell his fangs. He is a textbook good boy. He wears clean-cut suits and swears by the code of the union. But he is majorly lacking in the tenacity for combat, which the job requires. Bud and Seth get off on the wrong foot as Seth deducts most of the money he would have made on the fangs for taxes and fines.
Bud and Seth set out to hunt some vampires. Bud is beyond annoyed by Seth’s schoolboy persona, while on the other hand, Seth does all he can to extend his friendship. They park outside an abandoned animal shelter. According to Bud, the shelter should be crawling with juvies – a certain breed of vampires also known as ‘zombie vamps’, which are formed when a young vampire tries to turn someone else. These juvies would most likely be feeding on cats and other animals, and if they can track one down, they can hit a whole nest of them.
Audrey has somehow located Troy’s pawn shop. She sends bodies flying around as she makes her way to him. She taunts Troy as she looks through his collection of fangs, and talks about how humans would once worship Vampires as Gods, and how human beings hunting down the undead for sport is a sick joke. “Each set is a life that could have lived a thousand lives”, she says.
Now, if one were to think about it, this speaks millions about the moral implications of this dystopian Los Angeles. If it is lawful for us to consume other animals for nutrition, don’t vampires do the same? And so, why are they hunted for it? Most of them stay in hiding for survival, barely cursing any ruckus in society. Are they at any fault at all? Is it possible that the humans are the bad guys in this story? But these questions are far too great ever to reach a logical conclusion. Audrey offers Troy a deal, in return for his cooperation, she shall spare him his life. Troy rejects this proposal and seemingly meets his demise.
Bud and Seth are led to a bowling Alley called Canoga Bowl, which has been closed for eighteen months now. Bud leaves Seth in the truck, even though it is against protocol, and goes on to patrol the building. He finds two vampires feasting on cats and they engage in combat as more of them quickly join in. Bud is quickly overpowered and fights for his life, when Seth comes to his aid.
Being appointed by Seeger to verify any violations Bud may make, Seth finally finds himself at the scene of action. He is so disoriented by the gore that, after all the vampires have been taken care of, he pukes his guts out and even pisses himself, which later becomes a recurring joke. On the way back to his flat, Bud stumbles into a new tenant in the apartment next to him, she is a charming nurse named Heather. But in reality, she’s no ordinary side character.
The next day, Bud and Seth go to the pawn shop. To their absolute horror, they discover the corpses, and right next to Troy, spelt with human teeth and blood, is written “Bud”. Seth goes into a frenzy, exclaims again and again, that they have to report this incident to the union, but Bud does not agree.
Things get heated up, but in the end, Seth agrees to wait it out after he learns the real reason why Bud is in such a hurry to collect as many fangs as possible: his daughter. The two have a somewhat heartfelt moment, but still, the state of things deeply worries Bud. He is scared for his family above all else. That night, Bud catches Heather talking to a grim looking man in her living room. Immediately, Bud is alerted and his suspicions for Heather grow.
The next day, Bud and Seth set out to hunt some more vampires in Simi Valley, but this time, they’ve got competition. The ‘Nazzarin Brothers’, the famous hunters, played by Scott Adkins and Steve Howey, pull up right beside them, with the intention of getting to the prize before Bud could. The two pairs eventually decide to work the hunt together and split the bounty. What follows is perhaps the most action-packed fight scene in the movie.
The four men take on an entire hive of vampires, and again, Seth pisses himself. But after the deed is done, Bud almost gets the hint of what is brewing in the underground vampire circuit. Seth points out that of all the vampires they killed, some are entirely different breeds altogether, some are Ubers and Spiders and some are Southerns and Easterns. But theoretically, this is impossible, as they hardly cohabitate. But the thought is forgotten as Bud hurries out to pick up Paige.
Bud tries to avoid taking Paige to her friend’s party over his growing concerns for her safety, but is unable to do so. At the party, Bud receives an ominous phone call from none other than Audrey, although, Bud has no idea who she is yet. Audrey promises Bud that because he took something important from her, she would simply like to return him the favour and that she will undoubtedly come after his family.
Right then, Bud notices the man from Heather’s apartment pull up in front of him and suddenly, everything is clear to him. He rushes in to grab Paige and takes her to the truck. He buckles her in and tells her to focus on her iPad as they make a run for it. But soon, they are chased through hills and bridges and the LA traffic by the car and other vampires on bikes. This car chase is a classic nerve-wracking stunt sequence, but in the end, Bud is able to lose their tail.
They make their way to Joss’s house; but they are too late. Inside, Audrey has taken control of everything. A vampire-bitten Seth lies unconscious on the floor and Joss is held captive as Bud and Paige come in and are also captured. In this compromising position, Bud has to reveal to Joss what he really does for a living.
Audrey has cruel intentions for Paige. She tells Bud that first, she will turn Paige into a vampire and then she will watch as Paige drinks her mother dry. Bud is helpless and is left there unconscious with Seth as Audrey takes everyone to her lair.
Eventually, both Seth and Bud gain consciousness. Bud tells Seth to check his teeth in the mirror. Seth is outright horrified. He inspects his new fangs as his reflection swiftly dissipates into the void, Seth’s heightened need for blood keeps Bud on his toes and he even tries to jump at Bud. Bud’s instincts result in him chopping Seth’s head off, but he seems to rejuvenate from it.
The pair drive back to Bud’s complex, where Bud tells Seth that he’s got to check out apartment number 19, more specifically its tenant. Bud walks in on Heather packing her things. The two have a physical fight and Bud reprimands her for his abducted family while Heather pleads to explain herself.
Heather reveals to Bud that the older vampire Bud had killed on Monday, was Audrey’s daughter. Heather tells Bud that she’s on his side and that she had to work for Audrey despite her will. She also talks about Audrey’s plans as a realtor. She plans on moving several vampires back into LA, to flourish its undead population. The two along with Seth, form an alliance to take Audrey down and head towards her lair with Heather leading the way.
At the location, the three have to fight an army of Audrey’s pawns. They put up a decent fight but are soon cornered with no respite. And with the stakes this high, Big ‘black cowboy’ Johnny makes his entrance. He drives in and walks out with a machete in his hand. He then proceeds to take out the entire evil cavalry. At this point, the team breaks into two. Bud and Big J go looking after Audrey while Heather and Seth hold off more vampires.
Bud and Big John counter many more vampires in the underground catacombs and they emerge victorious, well except, Big John sustains a rather nasty flesh wound. Bud tries to help Big John but he simply wouldn’t have it. He locks Bud on the other side of a gate as he entraps himself with oncoming vampires, he tells Bud to go save his family while he takes care of the rest and promises to be right there, waiting for him. But Big John soon runs out of ammunition and is seen to sacrifice himself by blowing the cave up.
Bud is almost there, but he is met with Audrey’s right hand, Klaus, who wants to kill him all by himself. Almost miraculously, Heather and Seth fall out of the ceiling and promise to hold Klaus off for Bud. By the time Bud reaches Audrey, she has Joss by the throat on her floor. What come next are continuous intercuts between the two fights: Audrey vs Bud and Heather and Seth vs Klaus.
Heather and Seth are able to defeat Klaus, ripping apart both his arms at once; but Bud’s fortune on the other hand looks bleak. He brawls with Audrey but none of his methods seems to work. When Joss shoves a stake through her chest, she gets back up and silver-lined bullets look like they go right through her. He aims his very last bullet right at the back of her head but she catches it with her teeth, leaving Bud wondering how she could!
Audrey knows she has won the fight and charges toward Bud with sonic speed. Bud closes his eyes, awaiting what is to come, but just as Audrey’s hand reaches for Bud, there is the sound of a metallic twang and she stops on her tracks. Bud takes hold of her head as her body falls to the ground. Because, just as Bud Jablonski says, [play clip from 6:14 ‘works every time’ ]
On their way out, they discover the black cowboy’s hat and out of gratitude, Bud gives it to Seth. All is good in the valley again, well, momentarily, as Seeger pulls up to the scene, fuming. He starts listing out all of Bud’s violations in hopes of firing him, but the book-smart Seth is ready for him and refutes his every claim with greater legal logic. Joss and Bud make up and decide to take things one day at a time, this time, without any lies. The family drives into the night when out of the blue, a manhole cover pops open, revealing a quite tranquil-looking Big John, safe and sound.
The anatomy of a perfect fight sequence
Director J.J. Perry is an esteemed industry stuntman and stunt coordinator, thus, it naturally makes sense that his debut feature would emphasize its action scenes. And Day Shift does exactly that. With Perry’s extensive knowledge of stunts, he manages to create a world of supernatural hunting with garlic grenades, silver-lined bullets and katanas.
But what makes these particular scenes so engaging that our eyes stay glued to the movement on the screen? The thing that stands out most is the fact that these fight scenes almost feel like a dance. The movements are rhythmic and fluid even with guns and blades involved. The way a vampire’s body moves is also much different from a human body, it is flexible and seems to follow a type of twisted and ragdoll-esque physics, making it incredibly fun to watch.
The gore combined with the vampire’s bodies, almost takes on the likes of body horror, except it is slightly different. The nature of these bodies quite evidently reflects the comedic tone of the movie. One could say it is ‘body comedy’, although that most probably is not a thing. Yet.
The vampires are also omnipresent and they just keep coming. On-screen, it feels constant, their bodies make them seem almost invincible. Think about it, how do you kill something less mortal than you? When you kill something multiple times, only for it to stand back up, how do you deal with that frustration? This simple fact reminds us just how high the stakes are for vampire hunters and feeds into the overall charm.
Audrey San Fernando and LA’s underground vampire cult
The screenwriters do a fantastic job of worldbuilding here. They have created a lore intricate enough to make the audience believe in the film’s dystopia. According to the film, there are five major breeds of Vampires, namely: Ubers, Spiders, Southerns, Easterns and Juveniles.
Uber vampires sit at the top of the class structure and are typically the oldest. Juveniles tend to be the youngest and lack the ability to digest human blood. They hardly mix but when together, function in a hierarchy dictated by age. We discover other tidbits across the film, such as the fact that Uber vampires are solo nesters and Spider vampires can cohabit but never with Southern or Eastern Vampires. No vampires can reproduce, but every kind can turn human beings into vampires.
They also exhibit their usual qualities. They have no reflection, they can be injured with garlic and wood, and sometimes they can survive decapitation. But there is one thing that always kills a vampire: putting silver through their hearts and simultaneously decapitating them.
We also know that sunlight is the only thing that every vampire is scared of. And this is where Audrey San Fernando comes in. Our lucrative villainess is first and foremost a businesswoman. She is an uber vampire that has created a kind of sunscreen that allows vampires to survive for a couple of hours in the sun and plans on expanding the vampire community in LA. To humans, she is a star realtor, but what she really aims to do is buy out all the land in the Valley desert and move vampires back into settlements there. We later find out that these developmental plans she has are all borne out of her desire to create a safer world for her daughter, Bud’s very first vampire kill in the movie.
Another name that seems to float around from time to time is ‘El Jefe’ – a legendary 700-year-old European vampire. Jefe is supposedly at the very top of the LA drug trade and a prominent target for hunters. El Jefe is brought up so many times that his absence from the movie almost sounds intentional. Perhaps his character is someone we meet in a sequel, which is why he is only alluded to.
All in all, Day Shift is more of an action comedy than it is a vampire movie. Its plot structure is nothing new. In fact, the use of textbook dialogue and character tropes in the movie creates a distaste for it, as it fails to make the script stand apart. And because of this, critics and fans have been quick to point out similarities between other media projects. It has been compared to the likes of Evil Dead 2, Fright Night, What We Do in The Shadows and even Ghostbusters.
Day Shift’s humour and style have been said to resemble that of ‘From Dusk till Dawn’ and its action scenes to resemble those of ‘Blade’, but its stunt work, arguably, compares to no one. It is in no way a genre-defining piece, nor is it niche enough to grow to be a cult classic or be considered camp. But that doesn’t go to say that it doesn’t serve its purpose. It was written out to be a comforting Friday night watch with occasional humour and a wholesome conclusion and it achieves all of that and more.