As if life on a mining colony wasn’t tough enough. Alien: Night Shift is a prelude to some very bad things. And, no, that’s not a hangover he’s suffering from.
Written and Directed by Aiden Michael Brezonick
“What good has baseball ever done?”
It’s a seemingly throwaway line that actually proves to be a bit ironic by the end. Night Shift takes place in the High Lonesome Mining Company on LV-422. We are introduced to a pair of cargo haulers to a mining colony, one of whom has clearly had an up-close interaction recently with a face hugger. Mistakenly assuming that Harper (Tanner Richardson) was missing because of an all-night drinking bender, his captain, Welles (Terrance Keith Richardson) suggests that they get some drinks in a hair-of-the-dog remedy to a perceived hangover.
As a side note, I’ve been doing some homework to find out what the designation for the LV of the planetary systems means, to little avail. LV-426, of course, being the planet where the derelict ship was found and later on the Colony where the Sulaco’s Marine platoon was sent. There isn’t yet a definitive answer, with some suggesting “Landing Vehicle” per NASA, or “Life Viable”, and for those more biblically inclined, in reference to the book of Leviticus. (Not sure I buy into that last notion.)
The two teamsters head for the outpost general store, which seems to be very light on supplies. There the night shift crew of supply clerk Rolly (Amber Gaston), and her grizzled supervisor, Springer (Christopher Murray). Weyland Yutani seems to neglect their logistics, but Captain Welles has arrived with a new shipment, so Springer lets the two stragglers in. Needless to say, this is an Alien short film, and so you know that Harper, the unfortunate man who has been huggered, is going to birth a chest burster.
Once again, the 40th-anniversary shorts prove that you can take a familiar concept, and make it tense and frightening. Night Shift is probably the most straightforward of the short film concepts so far. The opening mini-scene introduction is fantastically shot, with the silhouette of Harper and Welles, contrasted against the dank colony lights, while a detached face hugger is ominously in the foreground. The chest bursting scene has all the right feels, but it should be noted that there are some editing issues with this short film.
There are some jarring transitions throughout the piece as the flow of where people should be and positioned in the frame sometimes seems a bit off. Some of the audio is hard to make out even on repeat viewings, and in a short film, that needed to be cleaned up. On the flip side, all of the sound effects are spot on and appropriately icky when needed.
I did appreciate that Rolly, despite her general disdain for baseball, proves to be a pretty good low fastball hitter. SMACK! The apocalyptic ending was a good idea that I think could have been handled with more subtlety as well, though I appreciate what Brezonick was going for. I think I would have liked the imminent threat to come through the storefront door, rather than being heard over the radio, but there is a proud tradition of hearing horrible things over the intercom in the Alien franchise.
Despite my minor issues, this is still quite an achievement for this production team on such a modest budget. It looks like it was part of a bigger budgeted movie, and like the other two installments, makes you want to see the story extended. Is Rolly going to be able to get off this rock? What happened to Welles? As with all of these short films, you wonder if Fox is going to consider any of these for further development.
Tongal and Fox who are producing these films, and IGN who is helping to distribute them, deserve a ton of credit for providing opportunities for new filmmakers and actors to get a high platform to show their chops. Kudos to all involved, as the production standards for all of these films so far have been consistently impressive, and producing some remarkable films given the micro-budgets.
The look of all the films is such that they all look like they are happening within the same time, and clearly are part of the same film universe. The consistency is laudable. Something notable, though: we haven’t yet seen a full grown xenomorph… I’m hoping we get one in the next film!