Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: LAST SHIFT (2014) [Paul's Take]

Our first review!  Farewell, boring life of non-blogging mediocrity!  Hello sparkling new life of blogging mediocrity!  This is it, the first installment of our Netflix Horror Challenge.  The challenge?  To watch, review, discuss, and wallow in completely random recent horror films off Netflix streaming until we can take no more.

We currently have, let me see, ZERO readers.  But if we manage to snare/trick/stumble into one (that would be you, right now, reading this, unless you’re me or Joe), we’d love to hear your thoughts on these gems of horror as well.  Ready?  Ok!

So everyone welcome to the stage . . .  “Last Shift.”   Hmmm, “Last Shift,” does it feel good to be picked first?  Before you start crowing around the kickball field, remember . . . luck of the draw, big fella.  You are, after all, going to have to answer for why your heroine, Jessica Loren (played with stoic rigor by Juliana Harkavy), is attacked by rolling office chairs.  Or the scene where those office chairs construct themselves into a giant Voltron-like ur-office chair.  You’ve got a lot of office-chair-splainin’ to do, so don’t get ahead of yourself. 

Even chairs like to sit on chairs
The premise of “Last Shift” is a solid set-up for psychological horror.  A rookie cop on the first day of her job gets the task of watching over a deserted police station for what turns out to be a shitty night.  Figuratively AND literally.  A homeless man pees in the lobby.  A bathroom appears to have been the site of a police-officer-poo-throwing contest.  Excrement abounds.  Coincidentally, a hazmat team is scheduled to arrive later that night.  So even though the film begins with scatological yuckiness, help is on the way!

Throughout the long night that follows for Jessica, I found myself perversely worried about the hazmat team.  Was Jessica going to be able to get them to clean the bathroom without extra charge, like “oh, while you’re here, somebody shat all over the walls in here, can you take care of it?”  Seems like a downright rude thing to say to anyone, unless, of course, they’re a hazmat team.  I bet they get it all the time.  They’re trained for this shit!

Less literally, Jessica’s shitty night consists of discovering that the deserted police station has a serious case of haunting.  Even though it doesn’t wander far from this single setting, “Last Shift” manages a brisk pace and effective suspense by focusing tightly on Jessica’s point-of-view and exploiting tried-and-true basic creep-outs.  Disturbing masks and bloody corpses, hell yes!  When Jessica pins the homeless guy face down on the ground and the back of his head turns into a scary play-dough face?   Scary as get out, but also, you know, kind of intellectually stimulating at the same time.  It makes you think: if your eyes were in the back of your head would it still be the back of your head?

But for all these sweet horror moments, there are also big whiffs.  The haunting ghosts sing a hokey kumbaya sing-a-long.  Someone has written, gasp, a word on the ceiling!  The nice flirty cop that turns out to only have half his head?  Solid statement on the perils of dating.  The creepy cop that orders Jessica to turn away from him and just sort of stand there?  Inexplicable.  “Last Shift” flings a lot of hazmat material at the proverbial wall and only some of it sticks.

As Jessica eventually finds out, she is being stalked by a homicidal cult of ghostly redneck pig farmers who committed suicide in the station sometime prior.  They don’t worship Satan, as they point out meaninglessly in one of the flashbacks, but rather the “King of Hell” who apparently is like Satan’s granddaddy or landlord or something.  The pig farmer thing is totally gym shoes—it makes for some interesting police-swine double entendres throughout the film—but the “King of Hell”?  Merely a Satan substitute that differs in no material way from Satan except that he’s got a stupid name.  It’s like the McDowell’s of evil deities.

Yet, for all the ideas that don’t work, many do.  And the fact that there’s so much—suicidal cult members, hanging masked people, corpses rolling around in their office chairs like the boss is out and you’re playing office chair football (if you haven’t played office chair football, you haven’t lived), a crawling naked disfigured golem girl, a late 80s office phone that vibrates, a really long hair in a sandwich—means that this film never slows down.  Sure, not all of it works, but the bizarre one-damned-thing-after-another parade of scares keeps things going at a pretty good clip, right up until the somewhat deflating ending.

The most adhesive of these thrown-at-the-wall ideas, though, comes during a harrowing scene midway through the film when Jessica gets trapped in a holding cell with the homeless urinator.  The lights go out and she loses her flashlight.  Then someone or something turns the flashlight on her.  Blinded by the light, she tries to muster courage in her I’m-in-control voice—“you need to give me my flashlight.”  This hits the right note—Jessica trying to maintain the fa├žade of authority in the face of unexplainable menace.  The jump scares that follow are well-orchestrated, but maybe give away too much, because the rest of the film seems like an attempt to recapture that moment by just adding more gore and more masks.  They don’t stick nearly as well. 
 
Random sidenote: was I alone in being distracted by the sliding archival shelves?  They are those handcrank-type shelves that you see in some libraries.  You know, the ones with catalog numbers on them like “PS1200.M3-PS2200.R” so you can tell what is in each shelf?  Thing is, the shelves behind Jessica in this haunted police station have only a single catalog number on two shelves, and what’s more, THE CALL NUMBER IS THE EXACT SAME NUMBER.  This bothered the library-goer in me, because at first I thought it was a clue (“this library only has one book,” said ominously, “and it’s checked out.”) but as the film wore on it felt more and more like a mistake.   Which means that they took the time to print out a sign for the shelves (they didn’t even need a sign, really), but when they realized they needed multiple different signs, said “fuck it” and just used the same one twice.  It’s that sort of consideration for fine detail followed by an absolute neglect of executing or following up on it that is “Last Shift.”

But where is D/6 399 QTT-25 88821Y????

Ultimately, the hazmat team does show up to my relief.  But then is hastily dispatched.  Thus the crowning achievement of the King of Hell is exacted: he manages to off the only folks trained and willing to clean that bathroom.  Now who will clean up your mess?  Bwa ha ha ha!  Evil landlord indeed!

My Questions for Joe:


PH:  The prostitute says she has to go “make donuts” at one point.  Is this another cop stereotype provocation or did I miss something? 
JD:  According to Urban Dictionary, ‘time to make the doughnuts’ means it’s time to get to work, and it comes from an old Duncan Donuts commercial in which the donut maker would say, well, you know. Also, for what it’s worth, the top related words include:

‘dry-humping’, ‘abstinence’, ‘america runs on dunkin’, ‘anal rape’, ‘bacon’, ‘best time ever’

I actually clicked on ‘anal rape’ just to see if there were some hip, new way the kids were using these days, like “That bike is so anal rape!” but no, it still means the same thing as it ever did. Also, ‘best time ever’ HAS no definition. The mysteries just don’t STOP with this movie!

PH:  Why doesn’t Jessica fix her hair? 

JD:  I’m pretty sure at one point she gets locked in a prison cell with a hobo, whom she tases into unconsciousness, then loses her flashlight. Then it gets FOUND by a specter that whispers creepy shit, and shines light on the hobo just so you can see he’s not the one with the flash light, which is IMPOSSIBLE, and terrifying. And she eventually gets out of there, and the first thing she does…is go back to her desk and work on her Police Training Manual some more. Maybe she’s looking for the section on ghost busting, but I don’t know why she does anything she does after the first 10 minutes.

No! Wait, because in the first 10 minutes, she finds a creepy ass room, and in the very next scene she’s sitting there eating a sandwich in it! And then, she finds a hair in her mouth, except it’s an extremely long black hair, which she pulls like three feet out of her mouth. That’s what you get for eating a sandwich in a creepy room, and on top of that, it’s obviously her hair, so she only has herself to blame. And finally, maybe that’s why she doesn’t fix her hair, because she’s already had enough of it for lunch! BEST TIME EVER

PH:  Discuss the transcendent evil of office furniture.

JD:  I spent most of the movie thinking things like “I would be OUT of there. I would call for back up, from my car, because I would be out.” I started thinking that during the bathroom scene, and basically never stopped. Except for the chair scene. I could take a chair. And watching her get beat up by one was like watching one of those dramatized, metaphorical struggles with drug addiction from D.A.R.E commercials when we were kids. Were those a thing? Because that felt like what I was watching. She didn’t really lose to a chair. She was really losing to crystal meth.

PH:  Was that “Su-eee” decent enough by pig farming standards? 

JD:  To tell you the truth, I didn’t make the pig farmer, cop, sow connection as quickly or as completely as you did. You pigged up on it! Snort.

PH:  Explain the immaculateness of the eyebrows of the female ghostly redneck non-Satan-worshiping pig farmers.

JD:  Well, they clearly never fought a possessed office chair, or at least one of those eyebrow hairs would NOT have been on flique.

Feel free to ask and answer your own questions below!

And click here to read Joe's take on Last Shift.
 

2 comments:

  1. I liked the scene in the holding cell with the flashlight. Shit was creepy as fuck; it did remind me of Silent Hill a bit...

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  2. Totally agree. That has to be up there as one of the best scary scenes we've watched during this project, in my opinion.

    Now, if I can ever get my hands on P.T. which is the only Silent Hill-thing I haven't experienced yet. . .

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