Last Shift (2014)

This had the makings of a very good scary movie. The setting is a police precinct that is completely decommissioned as of the beginning of the movie. Our lead (and almost only) character is the freshly minted police officer played by Juliana Harkavy (you may recognize her as Alisha from The Walking Dead) who has to fight her natural instinct to run from the strange things she encounters in order to do her job.

The movie is slow in building to the horror, but I think I've become too desensitized to the need to build anticipation of the scary before actually getting to it. It starts with the little things - stuff you can dismiss as just strange, but probably a figment of your imagination. Then it starts to get outright weird. The problem is that there is a point fairly early on where she opens a locker, looks at a picture, and then all of the other lockers are open when she looks around. This is a clear indication that she needs to get out now. She doesn't.

She deals with a dunk guy who wanders in off the street, a scared girl on the phone who needs help, and the dismissive tones of the guys who are already in the new police precinct and think she's just being a timid little girl who should probably not have been brought onto the force in the first place. As a result, she really feels the need to do her duty (she quietly recites her oath as a kind of mantra for courage) and stick it out to prove that hiring her wasn't a mistake. Would a man in the same situation have acted the same way? Possibly. But the social stigma of a woman in a job that is traditionally male is an interesting ingredient in the psychological drama.

So, we have the place setup like it was Assault on Precinct 13, with the bare staff necessary to keep the lights on and no one coming to help. We add the odd visitor or phone call. And we then start to develop the back story. It seems the reason Juliana is here at all is to make her deceased father proud of her. He died in some situation involving a cult (of course it's a cult) arrested and brought to the holding cells here and then something very terrible happened.

Is she confronted with ghosts? Zombies? The remnants of the cult that survived? Just someone playing a cruel joke? Hazing of the new cop? Is she simply battling her inner demons? It would be nice to say that this all gets resolved cleanly, but that would not only be a lie, it would take the good mystery out of the writing. The script is pretty good, but they chose to give a bunch of jump scares rather than sit in the movie for the chilling tale that they could have told.

To say that jump scares are a cheat is to underestimate their importance and the effect they have on trying to be scared for the rest of the movie. They use jump scares at odd times - like not having one when all of the lockers open. It is just presented to us like it is presented to her, and that is the most effective way it could be done. Unfortunately, they have a lot more, and they are all done the way Hollywood movies have used them lately - to get a quick fix and then hope it works again, which it almost never does.

Direction was good
Acting was very good
Effects were cheap, but done well enough
Story was good
Dialog was okay

Bottom Line: A movie that had more promise than it delivered, but it was still entertaining enough.



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