The Last Shift (2015)

LS13Sometimes, less is more. A writer can find themselves overloading a plot with far too many characters, too many subplots and convolutions and beginnings and endings and bloody hell Peter Jackson what the flip was up with the nine endings to the Lord of the Rings saga anyway?

Ahem. Yes, Less can be More. A simple plot with a minimum of characters, if written and presented effectively enough, can be entertaining and satisfying. Especially in horror, where the idea of a protagonist being alone facing something horrifying is a foundation of scares (although sometimes they can get very contrived in finding ways to remove cell phones from people so they can’t call for help – I’m looking at you, THE SAND). And if you’re in one location, you’ve already upped the claustrophobic elements. It also helps that a minimum of characters and setting can be easy on the production costs of your movie.

"Who're ya gonna call?"

“Who’re ya gonna call?”

THE LAST SHIFT does this, and does it extremely well, given what they’ve got. It’s set entirely around one location, and features one protagonist, rookie cop Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy, from TV’s The Walking Dead). It’s her first night, and she has an unusual assignment, to say the least: to babysit a closed-down precinct (which for the purposes of nerdiness I shall dub Precinct 13) until her shift ends at 4am. She’s there rather than some security guard because apparently they still have some evidence bags sitting around in a room, and with all the emergency calls having been rerouted to the operating precincts, all she has to do is keep an eye on things and send any stray people to the nearest working precinct.

What could be simpler, right?

Nyah nyah...

Nyah nyah…

And it does start out simply: once her relief Sergeant Cohen (Hank Stone) departs for the night, she’s left reading her training manual and listening to the strange noises that all old, abandoned buildings seem to like to make at night (there’s something about buildings that were designed for many people, like schools and hospitals, that makes them doubly eerie when they’re empty).

Then the weirdness starts. She sees fleeting images from the corner of her eye. A vagrant appears and pisses on the floor. Her lunch turns maggoty. And calls start coming through to her phone line, where a girl is screaming for help, calls that the working precincts can’t seem to trace. Doors lock on her. The vagrant returns and begins trashing the place before she locks him up in a cell.

The office cleaning lady's had better days...

The office cleaning lady’s had better days…

Gradually we pick up more clues about Officer Loren, and Precinct 13: her father was a cop, stationed there, and had been instrumental in tracking down and capturing the notorious John Michael Payman (Joshua Mikel, THE HARVESTING: CELL), who led a Manson-type family in kidnapping, torturing and killings girls. Payman and several of his captured acolytes had killed themselves in that very precinct, though not before they killed Loren’s father and several other cops.

Better than those Scream masks...

Better than those Scream masks…

Loren at first believes it to be all some elaborate hazing stunt being pulled on her (and though I hate the very concept of hazing, and that it would be particularly cruel to do this with Loren given her father died in the incident, I have to admit it would be an immensely cool stunt to pull), but as she begins to believe something is definitely happening, she must also fight her understandable terror (at more than point she ends up muttering her police officer’s oath like a prayer to give her strength to disobey orders and leave) to work out what’s happening.

Sounds like a better show than The King of Queens

Sounds like a better show than The King of Queens

Although I made an obvious connection to ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, the location of an abandoned police station is the only real link to THE LAST SHIFT, and really means nothing, because director Anthony DiBlasi (DREAD, CASSADEGA) and cinematographer Austin F. Schmidt give us a suspenseful, paranoid, well-paced movie, using both Old School techniques (shadows and noises) as well as more In Your Face scares (some of the spectres look and move as creepily as spiders across the floor). Harkavy presents a likeable, believable character, one you’d believe is a genuine rookie who isn’t an automatic badass but still tries to act professionally. There isn’t necessarily anything particularly original about what we see, but it’s very well put together, and kept me watching until the very end to find out how it does conclude, something a lot of movies I’ve tried watching this year have failed to do.

THE LAST SHIFT is available in numerous formats, and the trailer is below.

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: Anthony DiBlasi

Plot: 4 out of 5 stars

Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Deggsy. Hoping he didn’t misspell the word ‘Shift’ anywhere…

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  1. […] THE LAST SHIFT: This one came out of nowhere, never heard of it until I saw it in a Netflix list, and thought I’d give it a try.  A rookie cop on her first day (which I suppose is only slightly better than being three days from retirement) is assigned to supervise a closed precinct building (at least it wasn’t Precinct 13), who gradually becomes convinced that the place is haunted by the ghosts of a Manson-like serial killer and his followers, whose deaths are connected to her deceased policeman father (Sidebar: is it a law that all female cops need to have fathers who were cops too, preferably ones who died in the line of duty and never gave their daughters the respect and love they deserve? Just checking). This is a suspenseful, paranoid, well-made movie, and WALKING DEAD’s Juliana Harkavy carries it on her shoulder for much of it, and carries it well. […]

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