Pulling a double shift is generally not a fun time. On one hand, more money goes into your paycheck, but on the other hand, work is likely understaffed and who knows what you’re in for. The struggle of the working-class can unite an audience of movie-goers and get them behind a lot of protagonists who are putting themselves in dangerous and otherwise questionable situations. “I can survive a little longer if I can just survive the night.” This attitude is the driving force behind 12 Hour Shift, the directorial debut of actress Brea Grant, best known for her recurring role in Heroes and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II.
It’s 1999 in a small town in Arkansas and nurse Mandy, played by the underrated Angela Bettis, enters the hospital for her double shift. She’s overworked, and this exacerbates her drug addiction and other bad habits, like stealing medication from patients and harvesting organs for a black-market merchant, played by WWE’s Mick Foley. Despite her flaws, she’s good at her job and is always looking out for family, bringing in her cousin, Regina, played by Chloe Farnworth, to transport the organs. Unfortunately, Regina’s ditzy attitude causes her to misplace a cooler with a kidney in it. Already in the mix of a stressful night, Mandy will now have to juggle her crazy cousin, a henchman who isn’t leaving without a kidney, and a serial killer on bedrest, played by David Arquette. Shenanigans to ensue.
This is a film that relies on the strength of its lead. Angela Bettis has never received her due title as a “Scream Queen” despite being a big name in indie horror for two decades. Carrie, May, Scar, The Woman are a few of her many great turns, but she’s not been consistent enough for the mainstream to take notice. Bettis gives a layered performance under her jaded introduction. We see her angry, serious, scared, stressed, and content all within the confined narrative. She’s very believable and I couldn’t imagine another actress as this character. The relatively unknown Chloe Farnworth is the right kind of annoying in this role of Regina, channeling her inner Harley Quinn and completely clueless to the fact that she’s proactively making the situation worse. Nikea Gamby-Turner is great as Karen, Mandy’s co-worker/partner-in-crime who acts as the moral center of the film. Finally, David Arquette is surprisingly effective as the powder-keg serial killer that we’re all just waiting to go off. He’s used sparingly until the handcuffs come off, where we’re able to see past Officer Dewey and see him as a physical threat.
On the technical side, a lot of credit must go to producer/cinematographer/composer, Matt Glass (oh yeah, it’s that kind of indie). Much of the film takes place within the hospital, with Glass providing a very still, “fly on the wall” perspective. This isn’t a film trying to go all out with style, but you come to appreciate the matted, sterility of the hospital. They honestly could have made this film modern, and I don’t think we would have been any wiser to the situation. The whole film passes pretty well for the 90s, but there is one filler scene with Regina at a gas station where the current logo of Mtn. Dew and Doritos are on full display (that’s the only real continuity error).
Overall, 12 Hour Shift is a fine dark comedy, proving Brea Grant has skin in the game for women in horror. Her screenwriting follow-up, Lucky, recently premiered on Shudder as of early March. If you’re in the market for a grizzly film with a sense of humor, I have the treat for you. And at a brisk 86 minutes, 12 Hour Shift doesn’t feel like a chore at any point. It’s a friendly reminder that your job may suck but at least you’re probably not covered in blood by the end of it.
12 Hour Shift is available to stream on Hulu.
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