Thursday, October 20, 2016

31 Days of Horror- Day 20: Last Shift (2014)

(dir. Anthony DiBlasi)

Magnet Releasing
*First time viewing

A rookie cop is assigned to the last shift at a closing police station and encounters supernatural happenings tied to a satanic cult who killed themselves in holding.

There’s something pure about DiBlasi’s Last Shift. Its plot is simple, it’s cast small but functional, and it’s scares effective each and every time. Beyond the initial reference to Assault on Precinct 13, there’s something very reminiscent of Carpenter to the Last Shift-- a lack of pretense and a controlled delivery that never rushes from one scene to the next. All it’s missing is an interesting score (the one here left such an impression that I couldn't remember if it even had a score), and an 80s setting and this film would fit nicely alongside Carpenter’s works.

DiBlasi and cinematographer Austin Schmidt manage to create a near constant sense of palpable wrongness within the bland grayness of the station. Typically, such a mundane setting, and seemingly un-noteworthy production design would be damning for a horror film. But there’s a sense of order to the station, and sense of familiarity that would make us feel comfortable if not for its looming emptiness. Jessica, played by Juliana Harkavy, becomes the victim of this perfect storm of desertion, inexperience, and sinister forces. But to her credit, Jessica doesn’t realize she’s a victim until much later in the film, and attempts to exhibit control over the situation even as the station around her steadily transforms into a glimpse of Hell. Part of the film’s fun is the fact that we have a protagonist so entirely out of their depth and with something to prove, which magnifies every failure. If there’s one fault to her characterization, it’s that it takes her far too long to believe that there’s something otherworldly happening within the station.

When it comes to the otherworldly, Last Shift is master class at providing unique imagery that’s a cross between Barker and Raimi, outrageous and deeply unsettling anatomically. The cult members are of course a play on the Mansion family, and while we only get hints at their backstory, the film manages to make their mysteriousness frightening though I wish we had a greater sense of scope. While the ending gets a bit muddled in terms of intent and Jessica's arc, Last Shift manages to hit the right beats to make for a tense and engaging viewing experience.

Scare Factor: 3/5 Last Shift is a really well made indie horror film that looks more expensive than it is. While it never becomes shocking, it does deliver a winning combination of a familiar plot and unique visuals effects to scratch the itch that most people are looking for when they’re searching Netflix for a good horror movie that easily fits within expectations for the genre.

**Available to watch on Netflix Instant. 

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