TFF ’20: 12 HOUR SHIFT Emphasizes Bloody Dark Comedy Over Horror

12 Hour Shift

Although the Tribeca Film Festival has been indefinitely postponed, several films that were scheduled to screen at the event have been made available to critics for screening.

Maybe the middle of a pandemic is not the best time to bring out a movie where frontline medical workers like nurses are portrayed in less than heroic manner. But then again, 12 Hour Shift is a darkly funny and bloody good time.

Mandy (Angela Bettis) is a nurse at a rural Arkansas hospital who is at the start of an overnight, double shift. her pay isn’t that great, but she has a side hustle to help pay the bills and her ongoing drug habit – She secures organs from the recently deceased for local mobster Nicholas (the professional wrestler Mick Foley). After a recently deceased patient yields up a few choice organs that Nicholas has need of, Mandy is forced to enlist her ditzy cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth) to deliver the goods. Regina manages to screw up that simple task, leaving Mandy to try and secure another set of organs while still trying to deal with a group of difficult patients, keep her job, deal with an escaped convict (David Arquette, who is clearly having a blast) who is running amuck in the hospital and Regina’s own misguided attempts to fix the problem she caused.

Sure this plot is the most improbably story to involve the harvesting of human organs since the terrible Will Smith film Seven Pounds (2008). But 12 Hour Shift is far more entertaining a film that Smith’s self-important effort. While there is a copious amount of blood and internal viscera splashed about, this may still be a hard sell for straight horror fans as it is more concerned with escalating the absurdity with which Mandy has to deal with as the night goes on.

Bettis’s work here is top notch. Her character is fairly reprehensible and the screenplay makes no effort to soften her or give her a redeeming feature to make her more likely. (You know that the studio version of this film would have executives demanding this.) And yet, we still find ourselves rooting for her to make it through the night and deliver the merchandise that Nicholas is demanding.

As the ditzy cousin Regina, Chloe Farnworth is also walking a tightrope keeping her character just dumb but ambitious enough to be believable. It is a performance that could very easily have become cartoonishly broad. Instead, there is a level of menace to her that serves the film well as she leaves a trail of bloody mayhem and corpses behind her.

Oddly enough, writer-director Brea Grant has set the film in 1999. There isn’t much that is outright relevant to the plot by setting the film at the edge of the turn of the millennium though. Concern of the potential Y2K problem or other things unique to that year don’t factor into script at all. The only thing that the setting lends itself to is the lack of the ubiquitousness of cell phones, a device that could have potential solved a few plot problems for the characters along the way.

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About Rich Drees 7210 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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