FrightFest 2020: 12 Hour Shift

12 Hour Shift is an impressive, dark farce that hangs on cast charisma and interesting directorial choices.

Synopsis: It’s 1999 and over the course of one night at an Arkansas hospital, a junkie nurse, her scheming cousin and a group of black market organ-trading criminals get caught up in a heist gone wrong.

Illegal organ trading in a hospital may not sound like the basis for many laughs, but the acid-tongued dialogue of the hospital staff and the gradual escalation of chaos and farce involved manages to take the viewer on a journey. Brea Grant’s writing is sharp and the direction has a dynamic quality with plenty of energy and movement. The narrative need for a variety of characters to flow in and out of the film is handled with flair and confidence.

It should be no surprise to any indie horror fan that Angela Bettis is brilliant, with a knack for playing the permanently exhausted and sarcastic Mandy with a sense of empathy, without shying away from her darker side. Chloe Farnworth clearly relishes her role as the erratic, excitable Regina and is a joy to watch, even when things take a darker turn. The cast is rounded out by further excellent performances, especially the other nurses, with Nikea Gamby-Turner as Karen particularly deserving of praise. Her performance is relatively small, but she manages to convey everything you need to know about her character with the smallest of touches. Tom DeTrinis has a fun turn as a hypochondriac patient trying to gain a room in the hospital that offers some great interaction with the other characters.

Despite the clear-cut dark comedy, the film still manages to offer moments of deeply-felt emotion and pathos. In exploring the outset of the American opiate crisis as well as the treatment of healthcare workers the film’s chaotic action finds a grounding in something very real. The hospital and its inhabitants find itself at the centre of something much bigger – television news reports indicate that police have largely been taken away for Y2K preparations, there are discussions of criminal punishment and the way that characters stuck in these cycles end up making increasingly desperate decisions to stay afloat. To manage this sense of spiralling with genuinely funny moments is something very special.

There is a huge amount of dynamic movement in the film. Characters walk, strut, storm and even dance up and down the sickly-coloured hospital corridors in a way that feels instantly engaging. That energy is bolstered by near-operatic soundtrack moments that at first feel out of place, but soon come to add considerably to the escalating situation. Though it doesn’t unfold quite as real-time, the smooth transitions even when upping the ante and introducing more characters and ever more strange happenings lend it a sense of developing as you watch. It does this without resorting to static exposition, keeping everything constantly moving.

Ultimately, 12 Hour Shift is a cool, confident film that utilises offbeat humour and stylistic choices that come together with some wonderfully charismatic performances and a clear sense of vision. Brea Grant and her collaborators have created something very special that deserves attention.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

12 Hour Shift will be released by FrightFest Presents – stay tuned to their website and socials for further news.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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