12 Hour Shift [Grimmfest] Review: Scalpel Sharp Hospital Horror
Mandy (Angela Bettis) is only just about to start her double shift at Arkansas hospital and she already seems exhausted from it. She enjoys a cigarette, preparing herself for a night that is going to be even harder than she thought, and listens patiently as fellow nurse Cathy throws unsolicited opinions and thinly veiled barbs at her before leaving for the day. Mandy lasts as long as she can before telling Cathy to ‘fuck off’ with the dry, eye rolling tone we will come to know from her throughout the rest of the film. Welcome to her 12 Hour Shift.
Upon arriving for her shift Mandy is advised, by her shift supervisor and co-cospiritor Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner), to get a ‘soda’ for the long night ahead of her. Of course, this type of ‘soda’ doesn’t come from a vending machine, but it does go straight up her nose. Clearly these aren’t our typical good girl, morals and graces type nurses and we are not in for a typical night on the ward.
Mandy is a flawed, drug addicted anti-heroine who works with Karen to kill off terminal patients then harvest their organs and sell them to a group of hot-tempered bikers led by Nicholas, played by WWE legend Mick Foley (In a cameo that had me sold on this film from the get go). Mary’s ‘cousin’ (by marriage only as Mandy insistently reminds us) Regina (Chloe Farnworth) is the gang’s transporter, picking up the organs from outside the hospital and bringing them back to their seedy garage/piercing parlour. Unfortunately, Regina isn’t the sharpest knife in the arsenal and manages to lose that night’s liver shipment. Cue complications, desperate attempts to gain a liver, bumbling police officers, annoyingly needy patients and a cop-killing inmate who refuses to stay in bed.
The rising complications in this film are gripping, each one pushing our leads to new extremes of desperation and depravity. The hospital ends up in lockdown and the time tension begins, they have until the end of the night to procure and safely deliver a human organ to a bunch of shady bikers whilst not being caught by the police surrounding the building. The odds don’t look good. Yet, it is in everything that happens around this main mission that the true developments and visual artistry comes into play. 12 Hour Shift even provides a beautiful singalong number and a stunningly performed dance routine mid way through that should feel jarring but seem so fitting with the wild ride this film is taking the audience on. They are moments of peace and beauty that somehow still aren’t, all together, that comforting. Producer David Arquette makes a cameo appearance as the inmate who was brought to the hospital after an attempted suicide. He camps it up as a demented criminal without overstepping his mark or insisting on being the ‘hero’ or ‘hot guy’, which I greatly appreciated. He’s a fun add in who doesn’t steal light away from the female stars here.
“These female characters are not your average horror fodder, they are the product of a smart and creative women behind the script and the camera.”
Brea Grant shines as a modern voice in horror, taking risks as a filmmaker with her second feature film since her debut as a writer/director in 2013 (Best Friends Forever). She makes the choice to include a variety of female characters, none of whom can be boxed into stereotypes or are belittled by the role they are given in the narrative, and pushes them to the forefront. These women are not written as victims, they are anti-heroines, making their own choices and dealing with their own issues. They don’t have to be completely likeable, they can be jaded, goofy, ruthless or corrupt and that doesn’t detriment them, it becomes the reason why we love them.
These women form a begrudging alliance to get through the night out of handcuffs and hopefully in one piece. Angela Bettis is a horror darling already and her performance as terrifyingly calm, woman on the verge, Mandy is impeccable. She is one more ‘fuck up’ away from an extreme reaction, a woman with a long fuse but not much of it left unburnt.
Chloe Farnworth is a ball of energy and hilarity as Regina, the ‘dumb’ blonde with a pink Barbie Dreamhouse convertible and the most 90’s white platform shoes you ever did see. It would be so easy for her to fall into the horror trap of slutty stupid girl who dies pretty early on, yet she is so much more than that. She is smarter than she looks, more psychotic than she seems and scarily resourceful when necessary.
These two are opposing forces who juxtapose and compliment each other with every scene. It would be amiss of me to also not mention the strong, no-nonsense supervisor Karen as well, played with power and attitude by Nikea Gamby-Turner, who hates it when people call women ‘nuts’ and knows how to handle herself and protect the women who work for her. These female characters are not your average horror fodder, they are the product of a smart and creative women behind the script and the camera.
12 Hour Shift is filled with dry wit and sardonic humour. The production design and lighting are colourful and explosive, whilst the subject matter is dark and depraved. For a film about such a macabre topic this is truly funny and one of the most enjoyable films about organ trafficking that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. A grindhouse 90’s splatter fest that showcases the talent of cast and crew, it’s female led, scalpel sharp and bloody delightful.