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  • Rev Horror

Last Shift

Dir. Anthony DiBlasi (2014)

A rookie cop takes on the last shift at a police station that is about to be closed down, but the station isn't quite as deserted as it seems.

Isolationist, single-location horror can be exceptionally difficult to pull off, but when it's done well can be phenomenally creepy. There is something about being alone in a place, kept company only by your own thoughts and all of your worst fears, that strikes icy fear down the spines of viewers, and the psychological horror that can result in such a situation is only limited by the imagination of the filmmaker. Director Anthony DiBlasi's film Last Shift handles its plot, as small-scale and limited-scope as it may be, nearly perfectly, and it's a film that should be studied by other filmmakers for how to put together an indie movie with limited budget and only the barest threads of a plot into a film that is utterly terrifying in its execution.

Police officer Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) is assigned to work her first ever shift at a station that is just about to close its doors for good. The building has its own history, however, including a traumatic event involving her father Steve (Randy Molnar) and a dangerous cult run by the terrifying John Michael Paymon (Joshua Mikel). Jessica fights to survive the night against the ghosts of the past, haunted by visions of ghastly apparitions and her own career motivations, trying to make her father proud while also discovering what led him to his ultimate fate. As Jessica gets deeper into the night, things go more and more off the rails, and her first shift may very well become her last.

The fundamental mystery of Last Shift isn't found within the movie itself. Rather, the biggest question that one finds oneself asking is why in the world DiBlasi felt the need to remake this movie in the first place, delivering what is essentially a basic retelling of the story, albeit with a higher budget and more effects, in last year's Malum. Malum was fine, of course, and I can certainly understand an artist wanting to cover up some of his perceived shortcomings with his earlier work, but the remake fails to capture a lot of the out-of-nowhere magic that Last Shift conveys. This movie is brilliant, a dark and disturbing ghost story that is both original and horrifying. It didn't need improvement, and the efforts to do so don't particularly help to make a better movie at all. There will be people who watch the remake that don't feel the need to see the original, which is a shame, because Last Shift is a better film in almost every way.

Some of the scenes are masterfully done. The stacking of the chairs, reminiscent of Poltergeist and just as jarring, the rolling chairs intercut with a creepy-as-hell apparition, the flashbacks and interviews of the Manson-inspired Paymon family: it all works. The mystery undercurrent of the film is handled perfectly as well, dropping hints throughout but never revealing the entire puzzle until the end. The framing of the shots are utilized to help frame the narrative as well, and it's always shocking to a certain extent to see a film that's this well-made on an indie level. The audio is as creepy as possible, the sound design a huge part of what makes the film work as well as it does.

The effects in the film, as limited as they may be, are phenomenally effective. The script, tight and leaving as much to the imagination as possible, is likewise excellent, and the visual storytelling is absolutely top notch. Flashes of gore, often in the background rarely present for any extended period of time, are brutal and terrifying. It's a movie that's meant to be watched alone in a dark room, and if taken in its intended dose, it's a helluva fun ride. Harkavy does a great job, and the entire film depends on her performance and DiBlasi's visual flair. It all works together to create an incredibly memorable film that has become a modern cult classic, and a genuinely scary one at that.

Who this movie is for: Indie horror lovers, Psychological horror fans, Antifa members

Bottom line: Last Shift is terrifying, exceptionally well-done, and one of the better indie films in recent memory. It's developed its own cult following, well deserved for a movie that should be seen by as many horror fans as possible. Despite the unnecessary remake, this is a film that holds up to both repeat viewings and is no less scary the second time around. You can check it out streaming on Peacock right now, and I definitely recommend that you do so.

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