If you like your horror with a generous dollop of pitch-black humor, Brea Grant’s 12 Hour Shift is 90 minutes well spent. For everyone else, this might be a little too niche and bloody. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, the premise is mouth-watering and scream queen Angela Bettis (May, The Toolbox Murders etc.) delivers a typically great performance. The problem is the tone and pacing. Veering from gritty realism to slapstick is a big ask for any director, and the first 30 minutes is painfully uneventful.
The bones are there, however. Bettis plays a harrowed, drug-abusing nurse called Mandy, who supports her habit and penchant for expensive shoes by dealing organs to a local crime syndicate. She is a burnout, shell of a woman, who occasionally hastens the passing of a patient to fill an order. Not that our anti-heroine is completely soulless. Mandy does focus her attention on lost causes and assholes. Everything seems to be going to plan until her ditzy cousin (and crime connection) Regina loses a kidney.
To say that the shit hits the fan is something of an understatement. Between Regina (an over-the-top Chloe Farnworth) creeping around the hospital looking for an organ to steal — fresh out of someone’s body if need be — and the arrival of a prisoner on the ward, things all start to spiral out of control. And then the local gangsters arrive to collect their merchandise or find a replacement. It’s a ripper of an idea that is hampered by uneven pacing, implausible behavior from all involved and some of the worst detective work by cops in cinema history.
I can’t help but think that if everything was dialed down just a little, 12 Hour Shift would have been all the better for it. The film is certainly interesting and engaging. Mandy is annoyingly likable despite being a truly awful person and the nonchalant way she goes about her side-gig is genuinely harrowing. The hokey supporting cast makes less of an impression and David Arquette is wasted in a minor role. Tonal issues aside, the director shows natural flair for human nastiness and, after a slow start, keeps the blood-splatter coming.
Plot holes and head-scratching twists aside, there’s enough gore and eccentricity to make 12 Hour Shift a cult favorite. It just wouldn’t have taken that much more to elevate it even higher. The ideas are there, and the execution isn’t too far behind. 12 Hour Shift is now available on VOD.