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Review: Last Shift – “A haunting and unsettling atmosphere”

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Last Shift is a horror movie written and directed by Anthony DiBlasi. Having semi-enjoyed DiBlasi’s Floridian puppetry serial killer thriller Cassadega; and loved his bible-bludgeoning Mormon stalker movie,Missionary, a few FrightFest’s ago I was looking forward to what he would serve up in Last Shift.

Rookie cop, officer Loren (Juliana Harkavy) is dropped off by her mother for her first night on the job, but her first shift just might be her last. Loren has been tasked with manning a deserted police station on it’s last night. The phones are supposed to have been re-routed and the doors locked, but Loren needs to stick around and wait for a hazmat team to turn up and collect what’s left of the evidence room.

The sergeant who hands over the station’s reins is clearly cracked, as we get a glimpse of him going bananas before he realises Loren has arrived. As things start to go bump in the night, you suspect that the sarge may be messing with the newbie, but as the minutes pass it quickly becomes apparent that something is not right with the derelict station and what may have made the sergeant to lose it is also trying to worm its way into Officer Loren’s brain too.

A homeless man pees in the reception area, the lockers are rattling menacingly, the walls of the bathroom are dripping with black stuff, a weird girl who may or may not be real won’t stop calling, and this may all have something to do with a creepy Manson-esque murder cult and the death of Loren’s father that today just so happens to be the one year anniversary of.

There are shades of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 visually and thematically, and DiBlasi crafts a haunting and unsettling atmosphere, punctuated by some big jump scares that will make the hairs on the back of your neck fall out. The physical make up effects are grisly and great, while the sound design is horrific (in a good way). The Carpenter-esque synthesisers score is very overplayed at the moment, but Last Shift is a film that would have actually greatly benefitted from it.

Harkavy, who you may recognise from The Walking Dead, is extremely likeable – vulnerable and lonely, yet still strong and sensible. She is an easy to identify with lead, but is also sometimes left to flounder in the odd bland patch, and her character looks intermittently hard to keep together in the face of the film’s malfunctioning internal logic. Loren’s investigation of the station is formulaic and sees her hear something, enter a room, find nothing and then BAM get her with a jump scare a lot, but a tight twist at the end forces you to reevaluate everything you’ve seen, and forgive a lot of the plodding and clunkiness.

3.5-out-of-5

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