Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Bloody Horror Violence, Disturbing Images, and Language
Directed by: Anthony DiBlasi
Written by: Anthony DiBlasi
Starring: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, Hank Stone, J. LaRose, Sarah Sculco, Kathryn Kilger & Natalie Victoria
Anthony DiBlasi directed one of the best Clive Barker adaptations ever in DREAD, but he hasn’t really made a noteworthy follow-up to that film. There was so-so psychic/serial killer thriller CASSADAGA, hilariously inept Mormon-sploitation thriller MISSIONARY, and now this attempt at an atmospheric haunting crossed with a psychological thriller, LAST SHIFT. I’ve actually seen a handful notable reviews for this flick and one of my favorite horror authors recently praised the hell out of it on Facebook. I viewed LAST SHIFT in the perfect environment. It was around midnight, my sound was cranked up, and I had settled into the mood for frights. Unfortunately, I was let down by this film’s lame attempts at scares and one of the most predictable plots that I’ve sat through all month.
Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) is a rookie police officer whose first assignment seems like a deceptively simple job. She’s been tasked with guarding the old abandoned police station and waiting for a Hazmat team to pick up touchy crime evidence. As hours pass by, Jessica begins to see strange visions around the station, receives weird 911 calls (even though calls are supposedly redirected to a newer station) and we (alongside her) discover that this police station has a bit of a morbid history. That morbid history seems to be coming to ghostly life around Jessica and she fears that she’s losing her sanity…and now, we have a movie. A mostly boring, occasionally tedious, and extremely predictable movie.
LAST SHIFT isn’t a terrible film and DiBlasi is clearly attempting to do crazy things with it. However, almost all of his attempts at frights feel overly familiar and didn’t affect me in the slightest. LAST SHIFT is guilty of overusing loud stingers to accompany its would-be jump scares. By the way, those jump scares include faces in windows, ghostly apparitions that keep appearing every which way, and (in the film’s most unintentionally hilarious scene) a room full of evil rolling chairs. Seriously, the chair scene had me dying with laughter and I doubt that was the intention as LAST SHIFT seems to play pretty much everything as straight-faced as humanly possible.
Besides a few side characters (some of which may be ghosts, while others seem very real), Juliana Harkavy is given free rein to make this a one-woman show. To its credit, the film does dedicate a solid chunk of its running time to fleshing out Harkavy’s protagonist. In spots where I’d usually be yelling at the screen to just get up and leave the obviously haunted location, the script cleverly throws in shifting motivations for our main character to stay put and these mostly make sense. However, this notable quality doesn’t exactly excuse the unevenness of Harkavy’s acting abilities which are shaky to say the least.
LAST SHIFT’s ghostly antagonists range from spooky to derivative to laughable. The first comes in a bruised crawling apparition, who’s listed in the credits as “Bashed Face Betty.” Betty’s scene may be the most effective moment in the entire damn film and it’s the only bit that actually made me uneasy. The derivative ghosts come in apparitions who quickly shake their heads at a ridiculous speed (much like visions in JACOB’S LADDER or the underrated HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL remake). The laughable villains come in the “demonic” looking ghosts, who simply have pillow cases over the heads with bloody pentagrams drawn on them. Also, the main villain is clearly a Manson-inspired psycho and his monster form (seen on the film’s DVD cover and most promotional material) looks like something you’d run into a cheapo local haunted house.
On the whole, LAST SHIFT really didn’t do much for me. I respect that the film did develop its lead protagonist and gives ever-shifting motivations as to why she would stay in a clearly life-threatening situation. However, the film’s way too predictable “unexpected” revelation is eye-rollingly obvious and left a bad taste in my mouth. The final minutes encapsulate everything that’s wrong about this film, they’re predictable, rather generic, try way too hard to be scary and only end up as something that you’ve already seen a million times before. All of those qualities perfectly sum up LAST SHIFT in a nutshell.