Winter (December/January in particular) is a time a quiet reflection. A time when many parts of the country (nay, the world!) are plunged into frigid isolation and forced to wait out the potentially deadly weather in the comforts of the their own shelters. This isolation makes one introspective and philosophical. What is the meaning of life? Was god invented by mankind or vice versa? What were my favorite horror movies of the year? You may have noticed that I didn’t post a “best of” list. It’s not that I don’t like lists (because i do), or that I didn’t like any films in 2015 (because i did). It’s just that my “bests” tend to be fluid depending on my mood. Am I in the mood for a nostalgia blast? Am I in the mood for a slow-burn creep-out? You get the idea. Despite not nailing down my own favorites in 2015, I sure do look forward to reading other people’s year end favorites lists. Many of those lists included Last Shift. So I checked it out. Now I’m faithfully reporting my experience to you, dear readers.
Rookie officer Jessica Loren reports to the soon-to-be-shuttered old police station for her first night on the force. Her assignment, given to her by the very intense sargeant, is to stay in the place, let the hazmat crew in to clean out the rest of the evidence room, and to stay in the place. Easy, right? Not so much. For starters, a homeless man wanders in and pisses on the floor. He’s ejected, only to show up again in a storage room throwing file boxes around. Officer Loren puts him in holding, but can’t get her radio to work to get someone to come pick him up. On top of that, the power keeps going out. And she’s hearing some weird/creepy shit. And she’s seeing some weird/creepy shit. She can’t trust her own senses, but she can’t chicken out on her first night on the job. It’s a conundrum.
Last Shift has a lot going for it. There are some genuinely scary moments. Officer Loren’s isolation in an unfamiliar place is heightened to nail-biting levels of anxiety with each strange noise she investigates. Her fear is tempered by her embarrassment at experiencing said fear. She feels like a silly kid afraid of the dark. She soldiers on through each intrusion into what should be a quiet night. Things go from odd to INSANE rather quickly. And it’s that insanity that is the film’s downfall. I know I harp on this, but a viewer can only be relied upon to suspend a reasonable amount of disbelief. When Loren can’t get through to dispatch via radio, I believe it. When she doesn’t follow up with a phone call from either the front desk or her cell phone and just goes about her business as if everything is totally normal, the story has lost me. It takes me right out of the moment when I reflexively think, “Why doesn’t she just…”And it’s not just minor reportable incidents either. She should have called for backup in the first act. Even if she worried she would look like a skittish coward, she could easily have chalked it up to following protocol. (a man broke into the station and was tearing the place up after all) I really liked that she was worried about what the other officers would think. That’s realistic. Having a freak-out in a spooky abandoned police station on your first night of work as a cop would definitely haunt (wink!) you for the rest of your career. So, I get it. To some extent. But that extent is surpassed early on, and then the film just turns into a scare reel. (complete with Marilyn Manson video style undercranked head shaking) Sure, it has some good scares (i really love low visibility/darkness scares), but it also has some hackneyed horror tropes (cracking bones contortionist wraith). And the narrative thread is so thin, Last Shift may have worked better as a short film.
The Final Cut: Last Shift features some genuine scares and induces plenty of anxiety at times. Unfortunately, the core story is thin and the protagonist’s unbelievable behavior in the face of extremely unsettling events is distracting.