Last Shift

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“Bit of a cop-out.”

last shiftA strong start fails to be sustained, as it becomes increasingly apparent that the director here has a very limited selection of weapons in his cinematic arsenal. Jessica Loren (Harkavy) is a rookie cop, following in the footsteps of her late father. Her first assignment is the last (wo)man standing, on the final night before all duties at a police station are transferred to a new building. She’s supposed to be little more than a caretaker, waiting for the final clean-up crew to arrive, but virtually as soon as she is left alone, weirdness starts happening. She gets increasingly frantic calls from a woman who says she has been abducted, then a vagrant appears, first outside and then inside the facility. Furniture moves. Ghostly singing is heard. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, before a conveniently-passing bystander informs Jessica that tonight marks the year to the day that a notorious cult of serial killers were caught and brought to the station, where they all committed suicide.

Despite moments that are unquestionably effective, DiBiasi uses the jump scare far too often, beyond where it becomes not just ineffective, and instead a joke. I lost count of the number of times that the heroine saw something, heard a noise that made her look in another direction, and when she turned back, whatever had been there was gone. I did like the way you were never quite sure whether what you were seeing had any objective reality – perhaps a prank by her fellow officers on a new recruit – or if it was entirely in Jessica’s head. And while she stays around well past the point at which any rational person would have legged it out of there, the backstory gives a plausible explanation, in terms of her desire to make a good first impression, and live up to her father’s legacy. However, given that, her apparent complete ignorance of (or amnesia about) previous events doesn’t make sense, especially since her father died apprehending the cult in question.

Things ramp up in the final reel, with the station under siege by other members of the cult, but I have to confess, my attention had not been adequately sustained through the middle portion. Harkavy gives her best shot, and is decent, but this performance isn’t so much acting as reacting, and given she is alone for much more of the film than you’d expect, it needs a good deal more. I couldn’t help comparing this with another take with a not dissimilar theme and location, Let Us Prey. That succeeds a great deal better, not least because it provided a solid antagonist against whom the heroine must battle, rather than an apparently endless line of ghosts and cheap (if, it must be admitted, sometimes successful) shocks, as provided here.

Dir: Anthony DiBlasi
Star: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, Hank Stone, Mary Lankford

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