REVIEW: 12 Hour Shift (FrightFest 2020)
The very idea of a 12 Hour Shift is scary enough, but Brea Grant’s slick comedy horror takes this to a whole new level. It follows overworked, cynical nurse Mandy (Angela Battis) who finds herself caught up in a black market organ-trading scheme in 1999 Arkansas. Mandy is a deeply troubled character, battling her own addictions and hidden demons, making her so far removed from the dedicated, caring nurses we’re used to seeing on screen. She’s played brilliantly by Battis, who brings an effortless dark humour to the role.
Smuggling organs out of a hospital is tough, but by the time we meet Mandy she’s got this down to a fine art, knowing how to do it without arousing suspicion from her colleagues. She works alongside fellow nurse Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner) to get the job done, and for a while, it’s all going according to plan. But as expected from a film like this, things soon go horribly wrong. Mandy’s ditzy cousin Regina (Chloe Farnsworth) buys a kidney from her and promptly loses it before she’s able to hand it over to her less than understanding boss Nicholas (Mick Foley). Terrified that her boss might have her cut up and her own kidney harvested instead, Regina rushes back to the hospital to tell her cousin what’s happened and beg for another one. Naturally, Mandy is less than impressed by what Regina has done and is reluctant to help her out.
The desperate nature of the situation prompts Regina to take matters into her own hands, which is the catalyst for an absolutely wild film with plenty of laughs and gore along the way. Set mostly inside the hospital, 12 Hour Shift is undoubtedly the strangest double-shift you’ll ever encounter. We’re no stranger to filmmakers blending horror and comedy, but it’s tough to effectively pull off both. Brea Grant manages to succeed in this challenge, with some hilarious one-liners and darkly funny scenes throughout the film.
The film is certainly elevated by the central performances by Battis and Farnsworth, two very different characters who butt heads throughout. If it wasn’t for the organs and the cash, there’s no reason for these two people to spend time together. Farnsworth really shines as Regina, a young woman who is absolutely clueless about the world around her, even asking Mandy how many kidneys she has and how many she could live without. Her stupidity bears the brunt of many jokes, and they’re all brilliant.
However, events in the film also unleash a twisted side to Regina, making her bubbly and ditzy personality look absolutely terrifying. It soon becomes clear that she won’t stop until she gets back onto the right side of her boss. There’s also a brilliant cameo from David Arquette, whose role is very different to Scream’s Deputy Dewey. I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll wait for you to experience it for yourself. Personally, I was a huge fan of his character.
Visually, 12 Hour Shift is a real treat too. Expect lots of neon, bootcut jeans, and plenty of other set pieces that will make you want the 90s back. Despite everything that’s going on, there’s still a weird sense of dreaminess to the surroundings.
I could see myself rewatching this film in future, and it’s the kind I’d like to proudly display on my DVD shelf. Despite it being filed under horror, it might become my next comfort film for when I need a good belly laugh. This film is the perfect choice if you’re looking for pure entertainment and a thriller that’ll make you squirm. You won’t get jumpscares here, but you will get one of the finest dark comedies I’ve seen in a long time.
Jakob interviewed Brea Grant about 12 Hour Shift and her other 2020 film, Lucky in Issue #2 of our magazine.