Night Shift (CFF) Is Worth Staying Up All Night For
Title: Night Shift
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Greg Swinson, Ryan Thiessen
Writer: Greg Swinson
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Starring: Natalie Terrazzino, JC Oakley III, Olivia Graves
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Chattanooga Film Festival in 2022.
Forced to take on a new job as an overnight sanitation worker, Karen (Natalie Terrazzino) must slum through her shift all alone in an abandoned warehouse. Despite her daughter Lily (Olivia Graves) dealing with a rising fever and an unresponsive sitter, the job is going well. Until, that is, Karen begins hearing and seeing things. While her initial response is dismissal, it becomes all too evident that someone has broken into her place of work. Reacting quickly, she makes a break for the exit, any exit, so she can leave the would-be robbers to their spoils. Unfortunately, Karen has been locked in and soon understands that these invaders have different intentions and will stop at nothing to see her dead by morning.
A harrowing horror thriller, Night Shift is a conventional but aptly directed siege film that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Before it gets to the good stuff, the first twenty minutes of Night Shift is rough. Its central cast struggles to emote in a more relaxed setting manifesting in their line delivery. Everyone is on point physically, however, which is good considering the remainder of the film primarily plays to their strengths. Even towards the end, the performances do not fully deliver the dynamics necessary. If you can stomach the average performances then, however, it opens you up to a ridiculously taut horror film later.
As is typical for most no frills horror films, Night Shift boasts pretty flat characters including the heroine. More work could have been done to give her some dimension beyond her relationship with her ex-husband and her devotion to her daughter. For a relatively contained horror film, however, it works to evoke enough sympathy and keep the audience on her side. She makes mistakes but learns from them while using her knowledge and critical thinking to find solutions to problems she encounters or creates herself.
It takes a heavy suspension of disbelief to accept the conveniences that allow Karen to survive in so many instances when it seems impossible. The film partially gets around this solely thanks to its setting. Karen works in a warehouse full of deadly objects and has a decent amount of training on how to take care of herself, both as a cleaner and a survivor of domestic abuse. The reaches happen in cases where Karen is evading capture like holding on to a ledge with a broken hand or not being noticed underneath a table. While it is irritating at times, it makes for incredible suspense and there are still some simple explanations for why that could happen i.e., the lights are off, the masks restrict vision, etc.
There are two important reasons for the invaders to wear Punisher-like masks while they terrorize Karen. The first is the obvious answer: it hides their faces in case they are caught on camera or film. Reason number two is more metaphorical. Throughout the night, these men act as primal as possible. They want to assert their dominance over a defenseless woman working alone and once the reveal comes to light, teach her a lesson about hurting men, specifically their egos. They taunt her by calling her names and describing how stupid and weak she is but in the end, they are the pathetic ones.
As each of them fall victim to their own machismo and idiocy, their mask unveilings reveal just how pitiful and powerless they are when the tables turn. This is particularly evident in the end when it comes to life that Danny is responsible for the ordeal (which, I was under the impression it was established early on, but my memory could be wrong). He weakly apologizes when he realizes he finally lost. He must have come to the conclusion that not only will he forever be known as a wife beater and attempted murderer but also a weak man who got outwitted by his “stupid” and “weak” ex-wife. Yes, the film is pretty black and white when it comes to the morality of the characters but this is a trope I specifically love whenever the events are framed in similar manners, so it works for me. Despite knowing nothing about Karen, it’s hard not to root for a woman trying to survive the night who is doing her best to mind her business and slip away.
So far, this review reads more negative than positive, but it must be said that Night Shift works in spite of its obvious flaws. Midnight madness at its best and most gleefully gratifying, Night Shift focuses on building heart-pounding tension and undesirable situations for Karen to work herself out of to survive. To do so there are lots of inventive camerawork keep the action moving appropriately. The use of swivel cameras and long takes that make the scenes flow more cohesively and keeps the pacing tight. Incredibly well filmed for an indie film on a budget, Night Shift manages to come out on top in facing insurmountable odds.
Not without its problems, Night Shift is an enjoyable and intensely affecting horror film that is eager to please its audience. Never content to linger anywhere for too long, the action never stops as soon as it gets going before the satisfying conclusion. It doesn’t attempt to reinvent or revitalize the subgenre and it makes no apologies for doing so. Night Shift is a gloriously fun film that only endures a few hits to quality from some rough acting and eyerolling decisions made to continue the story. Keep an eye out for this recent gem so you too can be kept up all night like Karen.
Overall Score? 7.5/10