A while back, I bought some cheap and naff-looking horror films from my local supermarket, the intention being to give me some horror fodder to review for this very site. One of these films was Last Shift, and I thought the image on the box was a good indicator of the level of quality contained within. I was, I’m not ashamed to admit, wrong. Last Shift is a good entry in the horror genre – it isn’t anything new or particularly clever, but it manages to be half scary.
Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) is a rookie cop whose first shift ought to be an easy one – she is put in charge of the closing police station as it transitions to a new one. She expects a quiet night, with only an appearance for a crew picking up bio-hazard waste from the armoury to distract her – however, she soon starts to hear noises and receive phone calls from a woman in distress. Initially suspecting that a homeless man is behind the disturbances, things start to take a supernatural turn that may be linked to the death of a Manson-type killer and his young accomplices.
Last Shift is an example of slow burn horror, and in the sense that it actually generates a mood and sustains it rather than just pacing the jumps until the end. It is centred around a performance by Harkavy (and aside from the grouchy old cop at the start; she’s really the only character of any note), and she carries the show well, managing to sell Loren’s perseverance in the face of some very dodgy stuff and her losing her mind at it all.
Our film is an example of complete unoriginality (as is most horror), but actually manages to execute it well. We’ve seen all the plot beats before, the tales of haunted places with some handy expositional characters to fill in the blanks, satanic rituals and a mythology that doesn’t really matter so much as the frights matter – it’s all here, but it is steered well by director Anthony DiBlasi. In this genre more than any other, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when you make your film, but make sure it stays attached.
The movie ends, because it is a modern horror film and therefore must end, with a daft, right-before-the-credits stinger. I’m not going to critique the practice at all, but I don’t think it particularly works here, requiring a character decision that doesn’t quite sit right and has not been hinted at during the film. I don’t mind horror films leaving questions unanswered, but I don’t like that when it happens moments before the end and leaves unanswered a question it shouldn’t have asked. There are story holes here, but the movie is solid enough to not suffer too much because of them.
Last Shift is an effective horror movie, and benefits from both the smallness of its cast and its intentions – it is tightly controlled and well-executed, and manages to generate both an unsettling mood and some actual jump scares by being so. It doesn’t break the mould at all, but although it is a cheap and lesser-known horror film, it is a very decent one. I know that I sat down to the film with very low expectations in mind, but it was a treat for me – a low-budget horror that doesn’t completely suck, and a lot more at that.
Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Cast: Juliana Harkavy (Jessica Loren), Joshua Mikel (John Michael Paymon), J. LaRose (Panty Belt Patrick Black), Natalie Victoria (Marigold), Sarah Sculco (Kitty Paymon), Kathryn Kilger (Dorthea Paymon)
Running Time: 90 Mins