I wrote up a feature about Anthony DiBlasi’s Dread a few weeks ago, which I wanted to hate on principle and wound up really liking. In conversation, a friend reminded me that he was the one that brought us the adaptation of Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train as well. Two home runs from the same guy, with source material successfully adapted from Barker short stories no less? Yeah, that’s enough to get me to sit up and take notice. I had been hearing some good things about his film Last Shift, which is available on Netflix. The story concerns a rookie cop guarding a police station by herself on its last night of operation; problem is that there’s this odd sensation that she’s not the only one… and then weird things begin to happen. It didn’t disappoint. Here are five reasons why you should totally watch it this weekend.
|I’m curious to know how this poster strangely resembles me in the morning.|
DiBlasi has this thing about making sure that the tone of the environment is established through the lighting. He’s done it before in both Dread and Midnight Meat Train, where you just know that something is wrong based on the fact that everything look ashen. “Overcast” is probably the more appropriate term, and this film has that quality nailed down in technique. It’s sickly-looking, and manages to subtly influence that you’re thinking and how you’re feeling without whacking you over the head. I greatly enjoy this method because it doesn’t have to pretend to be witty – you don’t realize how it’s effected you until you stop and think about it.
The main character is Officer Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy), a rookie cop whose father died in the line of duty. Harkavy plays this woman as believable: she’s by-the-book and carries an air of authority, which can be tough to fake if you’re not a good actor. Having known cops, she spoke and carried herself the way that police officers do: firm and direct, with little to no tolerance for bullshit, from vocal pitch to walk. It helped me get lost in the story because it felt like I was watching a real officer. Always a plus. This is all without mentioning that Harkavy is beautiful. I didn’t notice a pretty face; I saw a character. When you can get me to do that, you know I’m paying attention.
|Harkavy was a good watch. She carried it well.|
You know what’s creepy as shit? A door slamming shut when there’s no one there. So are flashing lights. Ditto objects that rearrange themselves. Check, check, and checkeroo here. I call this the Poltergeist principle: you can explain certain things, but they leave you uneasy and you know that something is wrong. You know what really bothered me? Seeing something behind our lead character that she can’t see, and knowing that she can feel it. Christ does that give me the heebie jeebies because I’ve been there so many times. It taps into that universal fear that there’s something lurking behind you, which is a terribly uncomfortable feeling, especially if you’re alone. It makes you question whether or not the action of the film is real, and worse yet, if there’s something lurking around you in the kitchen.
You know what some of the shots of the hallways reminded me of? The long shots running down the u-boat in Das Boot. There’s a cramped, claustrophobic tendency that this film has: it wants to put us into limited areas of the police station and keep us there, letting the walls close in around us. Officer Loren is stuck there overnight; we’re stuck with her, too, and there are times when we want to leave as badly as she does. That makes the haunted house effect more impactful, and damn does it work. The tightness of the surroundings adds to the tension without having to try hard.
|Your personal space bubble will not be happy.|
Never underestimate the power of sound. Between screaming and humming – sometimes reminiscent of your ears popping – you will get unsettled. What’s even worse than that: the little creaks and crunching sounds. Low clicks. Maybe it’s the building’s foundation settling. Maybe a piece of drywall gave up and fell over. Maybe her pen fell off the desk. You’re not sure, and you’re distrustful. God this film made me want to distrust every tiny sound around me. When I get wary of spending time alone, you’ve done something right.