10th Oct2020

Grimmfest 2020: ’12 Hour Shift’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Angela Bettis, David Arquette, Chloe Farnworth, Mick Foley, Kit Williamson, Nikea Gamby-Turner, Tara Perry, Brooke Seguim, Dust Warren, Tom DeTrinis, Thomas Hobson, Juilanne Dowler, Briana Lane, Taylor Alden, Scott Dean | Written and Directed by Brea Grant

Brea Grant, at least for me, first came to prominence after appearing in Heroes, the mid-2000s superhero show that took the world by storm for about a season but never truly recovering post-writers strike. Since then she’s appeared in a number of other genre shows and movies, including The Guild, Game Shop, Worry Dolls and Beyond the Gates. However alongside her acting roles Grant has been slowing progressing as both writer and director; and this year she has not one but two genre films under her belt – writing and starring in Lucky; and writing and directing this hospital-set horror, 12 Hour Shift.

12 Hour Shift follows Mandy, played by the always-excellent Angela Bettis, who has a two problems. One, she has a drug problem, taking as many drugs as she administers to her patients, no doubt brought on by the stress of the situation she in. What’s that situation? Well, alongside her co-worker Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner) she’s a part of an illegal black-market organ smuggling ring – run by former wrestler Mick Foley no less! What better way to get illegal organs than having a woman on the inside right? However Mandy and Karen aren’t alone in this affair – Mandy’s cousin-in-law Regina (Chloe Farnworth) is the courier, running the organs from the hospital to Foley’s organisation. Only Regina’s not that bright. Like REALLY no that bright. So much so she loses the latest consignment of organs and that’s when everything goes haywire!

The blackest of black comedies, 12 Hour Shift is almost farce-like in its nature. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong; and it does. The film is eerily similar to the work of Tarantino – ordinary people in an extraordinary situation, with a story structure that builds into a crescendo of violence and insanity. Yet for all that, the film still feels grounded in reality. Though there’s a surprising, and surprisingly good, musical number thrown in part way through the film. I say surprising as, unexpectedly, said musical number doesn’t actually feel out of place in a gritty, bloody crime drama come horror.

I say crime drama-come-horror as 12 Hour Shift, outside of the bloody, and bloody funny, scene of Mandy trying to harvest organs from a dead body in the morgue and Regina’s ridiculous penchant for trying to kill EVERYONE – in the most violent ways possible in lot of cases – in order to replace the elusive missing organs; Grant’s film is more crime thriller than out and out horror film. It’s also funny, very funny. The ghoulishness of comedy really feeling like something that would take place in a hospital… after all, comedy (not matter how dark) has to be the perfect antidote to all the death and disease that nurses see on a day-to-day basis.

Where 12 Hour Shift really succeeds however in in its characters. Bettis is always guaranteed to deliver a great performance and her character, despite the drug problem and organ-harvesting tendencies, still manages to generate empathy. You feel sorry for the situation she’s in, even though she brought it on herself. The script also subtly hints that the strain of working in such a high-pressure environment is also to blame – pushing Mandy into drug use just to cope, and thus into organ harvesting to help with said drug problem. So much so that when it’s all over, when Mandy – after resting in har car post titular 12 Hour Shift – goes back to work, you can’t help but feel sorry for her… even though she’s literally got away with murder!

**** 4/5

12 Hour Shift screened as part of this year Grimmfest virtual edition on Wednesday October 7th.

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