Last Shift (Horror Movie Review): Really Good Blend of Horror Tropes
Julianna Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, Hank Stone
Fear the ones left behind
A rookie cop’s first shift alone on the last night of a closing police station turns into a living nightmare.
Part of the reason why horror movies don’t often work as a “scary movie” is that they generally fall into sub-genres of horror that rely on specific tropes to satisfy the watcher. However, I believe that real horror comes when you look in one direction and everyone thinks the jump-scare is coming from the opposite direction, and then it drops down from above, or grabs you from below, or even better. No scare at all. It builds.
I watched this movie alone in a dark house that’s situated on a dark street in a rural community. You can hear a natural cacophony of night critters through my open window. It optimized the experience, but I don’t think it’s necessary to attempt to be so dedicated to receiving the endorphin rush. This movie’s strongest characteristic is that it makes you think that you are watching a specific type of horror and then it blends that together with other tropes to give you a unique thing. It’s really a haunted house, siege narrative with one major character isolated by circumstance and responsibility, with things that go bump in the night, ghosts of the past, creeping horror, serial killer run amok, with a dash of psychological horror, banging doors, a stranger in the house, and more.
Rookie police officer Jessica Loren (played very well by Juliana Harkavy) has been assigned the last shift at a closing police station. This is her first shift, and she must wait for a Hazmat team to collect biomedical waste from the evidence lockers. She has been ordered not to abandon her post. Another police officer acknowledges that it’s a crap assignment, but that she drew the short straw. Over the course of the shift, Officer Loren experiences some escalating paranormal occurrences. Through it all, she handles herself with tremendous aplomb by repeating her memorized pledge to serve and protect.
A creepy hobo makes his way into the precinct and tries to avoid Officer Loren, but she physically removes him from the premises. It gives the audience an idea of how adept this young officer will be out on the street. Somehow the hobo returns, and so she decides to cuff him, throw a little scare into him, by keeping him in lockup for a short while.
As she’s doing her rounds, she sees that in the briefing room a television is playing the interrogation room tapes of John Michael Paymon and his serial-killing family. They worship the devil. The camera puts us in the interrogation room with the killers. As it circles them, they spout their ardent and passionate beliefs. At a certain point, John Michael Paymon stares into the camera. It feels as if he’s peering into your soul. This is just the first half of this movie. I’m not going to share anything more about the story. However, some final notes on the film itself.
The cinematography and directing are top-notch. There are moments that the close-ups convey the claustrophobic sense of being trapped not only by the shadows, but by one’s past, and sense of responsibility and duty. There are bird’s-eye views and worm’s-eye views. Sometimes the camera is straight on the action, and at other times, the camera is askew. The directing by Anthony Diblasi is stellar.
Juliana Harkavy is on-screen alone 90 % of the time, and in the hands of a less skilled actress, the gamut of emotions that she must run would have been unsuccessful. She plays the role understated; after all, it’s her first day at a new job. She has a lot to live up to. Her dad was a superior cop who died in the line of duty.
Last word on the musical score and sound choices. At times, there’s no background mood music. The director chooses silence over the typical sounds of a horror movie. Moments of absolute silence are jarring. They add to the building tension and when the music happens, there are flourishes and chanting. . . and ghostly echoes.
Yeah! This movie is scary and creepy; everything good horror is supposed to be. If you like horror movies, give it a watch. You won’t be disappointed.