Last Shift (2014) – Review


If there ever was a problem with the bygone world of direct to DVD horror flicks and the current universe of streaming, it’s that the sheer volume of fright flicks is so unfathomably huge that it’s impossible to know where to start when separating the wheat from the endless chaff that’s beamed our way. You have just as much chance as wasting two hours of your life on pure shit as you do unwittingly letting a minor, unearthed masterpiece slip through your fingers due to an iffy algorithm and often matters are left up to chance if you cant be bothered to do your due diligence. However, every now and then, fate chooses to fling a banger your way through the strangest of circumstances and the only way I heard of Last Shift in the first place is because I heard the news that it was getting remade by the same director. Immediately my curiosity was peaked; what is it about this film required it to be remade less than ten years after its release? Was it really bad? Really good? Great concept but bad execution? Vice versa? In order to find out, I figured “what the hell” and signed on for a Last Shift I hopefully wouldn’t forget.


Jessica Loren is a rookie police officer driven by daddy issues who is about to tackle her very first assignment; however, that assignment is hardly what you’d call flashy. Her job is to babysit a decommissioned police station on her own, on its final night before it is closed for good and the only people she’ll most likely encounter are the HAZMAT team who are due to arrive at 4am to pick up some ickier forms of lingering evidence (crack needles, shitty underwear, that sort of thing) and any lost soul who wanders by thinking that the place is still open.
After a brusk briefing from a typically bitter senior officer, Jessica settles down for a night of boredom where the only desperate struggle will be the one she’ll have keeping her eyes open – however, as the night continues, the rookie notices strange occurrences start to snowball. First she keeps getting calls from a terrified woman who claims to be in danger which should be impossible as all lines have been transferred to the new station, secondly she encounters a urinating vagrant who has somehow found his way into the building whom she has to deal with with a fair bit of force.
However, these fairly unnerving occurrences soon give way to experiences that are far more sinister as Jessica starts experiencing frighting visions of bag-masked ghouls, moving furniture and a seemingly kind officer who certainly isn’t what he seems. Does this have anything to do with the station’s grim past which saw a trio of cult members whose apprehension resulted in her police officer father’s untimely death and who apparently never left their cells alive, or is she already cracking under the strain of her father’s legacy as shit gets ever more chilling the more the hours tick by.


Anthony DiBlasi’s Last Shift is one of those movies that wears its inspirations on its sleeve right from the opening moments. Some sort of stressful happenstance going on at a closed down police station? That’ll be shades of John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13, then as Juliana Harkavy’s eager-to-please rookie is the sole person stationed at this gutted facility in its dying hours. Of course, she’s got a far more insidious problem to deal with than a zombie-like army of drugged out whackos trying to gain entrance here. No, in Last Shift, the problems are already lurking within the building as the movie employs all the failing lights, jump scares and long periods of drawn out tension it can muster in order to give us a neat little frightener that carries minimum fat on its blood-streaked bones.
If I’m being picky, Last Shift finds itself lumbered by some unwanted baggage due to its minimalist structure with the main problem being that the scares that occasionally puncture the tense calm usually result in the movie feeling fairly episodic. While this wouldn’t necessarily be much of an issue – God knows plenty of horror flicks are the same, just look at Evil Dead II – with Last Shift there is a sense that literally every scare sequence that occurs could probably have happened in any order and not actually changed the story at all. Maybe it’s because our lead, a idealistic rookie who has something to prove, manages to calm herself down adequately enough that she’s always in enough of a rational state of mind before the next jolt hits, but I’m not about to complain about a having strong female lead present – so I guess it’s just one of those things.


Those jolts I was talking about are executed well enough with a noticable influence by Clive Barker creeping in at the edges, which makes total sense considering DiBlasi’s feature debut was an adaption of the author’s Book’s Of Blood entry, Dread. Boosting the Barker influence even further, everything is tied into the on-site death of a trio of cult members years earlier who claim to worship the true king of Hell (Satan just took over residency after his fall, apparently) and this back story is skillfully woven into the tale with some nice segues that give the whole film almost a survival horror video game feel. You know those twenty minute VR demos you get where you plonk the headset on and do the minimal amount of playing as the game goes all out to scare the poop clean from your body? That’s what LastvShift feels most like and if you’re willing to go with the flow and play it’s game, maxumum results will bo doubt be achieved.
The reason it all holds together is Harkavy’s central performance that balances enough toughness to make a strong lead, yet allows enough wide-eyed vulnerability to have all the spooky shit that surrounds her be a legitimate threat. The script essentially requires her to take the entire film on her shoulders and the actress is more than up to the task, even if the stop/start nature of the scares has her terrified for her life one minute and calmly chatting to a random, exposition dumping loiterer the next.
So, how are these scares then? Not bad at all if I’m being honest with you. Utilizing the kind of heebie jeebies that sees scarred faces lunging out of doorways and a fair few tricks involving lights being mysteriously flicking on and off at the worst possible times, DiBlasi guarantees that your butt will leave your seat in shock at least a few times – and yet as undeniably successful as the film is, I’ll admit I was hoping for something a bit more harrowing than the efficient jump machine presented here. However, matters are further aided by a surprisingly nasty final twist that proves to be far more memorable than the majority of stuff that’s come before.


Maybe DiBlasi’s 2023 reworking – titled Malum – will provide more memorable shocks that his first go round, but as it stands, Last Shift still manages to clock in (and out) with style.


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