Frightfest 2020 Review: 12 Hour Shift
A darkly mischievous farce about the horrors of the medical profession from Brea Grant
Written by Sarah Dobbs
If we didn’t think too much about how hard our medical professionals have to work before, this past year should have forced us into newfound appreciation for their efforts. But the nurses of 12 Hour Shift aren’t in it for the applause. They’ve got their own way of making sure their work pays off – by selling human organs on the black market.
Set on one particularly eventful night, the movie follows exhausted nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) as she navigates office politics, difficult patients (and their relatives), and an organ deal gone awry. Her contact, Regina (Chloe Farnworth), misplaced the package at their handover, and is now being chased by a criminal gang demanding their promised kidney. Terrified, she decides to take matters into her own hands, but her scheming gets even more complicated when the police show up at the hospital with a convicted murderer (David Arquette) in tow…
Sounds bleak? Well, yes, but 12 Hour Shift is, unexpectedly, kind of a romp. It’s got snappy dialogue, larger-than-life characters, and a deep vein of dark, evil mischief that keeps things from getting too depressing. It’s not a comedy, exactly, but writer/director Brea Grant definitely has an eye for absurdity – there’s even a brief but joyful dance sequence in the middle. Throughout, she keeps her characters and her audience on their toes with a series of ever-escalating crises, but while the situation at the hospital spirals out of control, the film never does. Carefully paced and structured, not a moment is wasted, with every apparently throwaway line or insignificant-seeming character finding a purpose before the end.
Bettis’s Mandy is the anchor of the film, her exhaustion and frustration palpable as her attempts to calm everything down are repeatedly thwarted by the agents of chaos around her. It’s a great performance by Bettis, managing to wring sympathy out of us even as she does terrible things. She’s backed up by solid work from Nikea Gamby-Turner as Karen, whose calm demeanour nonetheless suggests there’s something truly scary going on in her head, Brooke Seguin as sharp-tongued Janet, and Kit Williamson as the earnest Officer Myers – but the show is well and truly stolen by Farnworth, whose murderous Regina, stalking the corridors of the hospital in stolen scrubs and high heels, is an unforgettable creation. None of these people are likeable, and you’d never want to end up stuck in this hospital with them, but on screen, it’s impossible to look away.
A smart farce that manages to highlight the mundane horrors of working in a hospital while playfully incorporating (and subverting) slasher tropes, 12 Hour Shift might well be one of this year’s FrightFest highlights.
Director: Brea Grant
Screenwriter: Brea Grant
Cast: Angela Bettis, Chloe Farnsworth, David Arquette, Nikea Gamby-Turner
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Running time: 86 minutes