★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Fright-fare favorite Brea Grant helms a dark comedy with loads of suspense, as a drug-addicted, organ-harvesting nurse tries to keep things under control on an especially wild night.
Directed by Brea Grant
Renaissance woman Brea Grant (star of more than 40 horror projects including, most recently, Lucky, The Stylist, and After Midnight) writes and directs the dark comedy/horror thriller 12 Hour Shift, which focuses on the dastardly deeds surrounding a small-town hospital in the year 1999. The humor is dark, mixing satire on the American health care system and rapid-paced farce showcasing organ harvesting in the unexpected setting of small-town Arkansas.
Angela Bettis stars as Mandy, a drug-addicted nurse who pilfers pills and assists Senior Nurse Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner) in offing patients with bleach and harvesting their organs. Mandy’s cousin-by-marriage Regina (Chloe Farnworth) is supposed to deliver a harvested kidney to her boss (Mick Foley) after buying it from Mandy, but she misplaces it. After the boss tells Regina to replace it immediately or give up her own, Regina heads back to the hospital and raises all kinds of gory trouble for Mandy — as well as some unfortunate patients. Meanwhile, a cop killer (David Arquette) arrives to provide further disorder.
Bettis is terrific as Mandy, with much of the strength of her performance lying in reacting to the words and actions of others. Her facial expressions are more on the dour and serious side, and she plays with subtle variations on those nicely. Gamby-Turner is a blast as Nurse Karen, providing plenty of dry wit, and Farnworth takes the dumb-blonde stereotype to a whole nother level in a fun performance.
Grant pulls off the difficult feat of making two organ-thieving nurses the protagonists, made even more challenging in that they do little to endear themselves to viewers. You may not necessarily be rooting for them, but you can’t help but be interested to see how far their farcical situation will go. Grant’s style of humor here is more of the jaw-dropping, “What could possibly happen next?” type rather than being gut busting, and she delivers well in that department.
Grant also paces the proceedings with verve, especially considering how situations pile one on top of another. The dialogue is sharp and the comedy equally so. The red stuff is plentiful, as astute horror fans might guess considering Grant’s many fear-fare credentials.
Though 12 Hour Shift deals in the nihilistic, it never gets downbeat thanks to its brisk pacing and absurd elements. Fans of dark comedies and rising suspense should have a great time with this feature.
12 Hour Shift is nominated for Best Feature Film at FilmQuest 2020, which runs online and at The Velour in Provo, Utah, from May 21-29, 2021. It is also available On Demand from Magnolia Pictures.