Last Shift (2014/2015)
Dir. Anthony DiBlasi
Scr. DiBlasi and Scott Poiley
Starring: Juliana Harkavy, Hank Stone, J. LaRose, Matt Doman, Natalie Victoria
Review By Greg Klymkiw
With definite echoes of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, Anthony DiBlasi's Last Shift takes the familiar tale of a police station on its final night into a whole new realm of terror. Let's use Carpenter's inspiration and describe the film as Rio Bravo meets the Manson Family channelled through The Evil Dead.
Lithe, exotic, stunningly gorgeous, but clearly built to take and deliver a beating, rookie cop Jessica Loren's (Juliana Harkavy) first night on the job is to preside - alone - in the very precinct her role model cop Dad was shot and killed during the attempted incarceration of devil worshipping babes and their malevolent Manson-like leader. You see, it's the last night this station will be open and she'll be serving as little more than a glorified security guard. Upon entering the building, she's blinded by the harsh fluorescent lights reflecting off the white walls and barren quarters. Even stranger is that Sgt. Cohen (Hank Stone), her commanding officer, is nowhere to be seen or found.
Walking down a creepy long antiseptic corridor, she's shocked by the sounds of someone yelling and virtually growling unintelligibly, followed by the sudden appearance in a room down at the end of what could be the good sergeant. He's punching, kicking and smashing the walls violently until he spots her and demands she raise her hands above her head.
Yup, this is her commanding officer. Though prickly and condescending, his previously distressing behaviour dissipates and he gives her a brief tour of the joint and a few instructions before leaving for the night. He'll be back at 4am to relieve her and all she has to do is what for a forensic clean-up team to come in to dispose of a roomful of ages-old evidence files.
Once Jessica's alone, she goes through a few routine motions, but mostly sits at the front desk. When she hears some strange noises coming from deep within the hollow, echoey, lonely cop shop, we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that things are definitely going to go awry.
Though 911 calls are supposed to be routed to the new precinct, she keeps getting strange distress calls from a young woman who claims to be kidnapped, but doesn't know where she is. Between these calls, more bumps in the night occur, including several odd visits. The first is from a mysterious homeless man (J. LaRose) whom Jessica accidentally locks herself in a cell with, followed by a terrifyingly inexplicable series of events which free her from this regrettable self-incarceration. A loiterer-cum-hooker (Natalie Victoria) hangs about to smoke a cigarette just outside and relates a few creepy stories about the night she was in a holding cell when the deadly cult members were brought in and went apeshit. Topping this all off are several encounters with apparitions, mysterious moved (and even moving) furniture, more distress calls and finally, just in the nick of time, a sweet young officer (Matt Doman) appears.
At first, Jessica thinks he's the ringleader of a bunch of cops trying to spook her, but he's so kind and sincere, it becomes apparent no such practical joke is occurring. He reveals that he was a rookie partner of her Dad. He speaks reverently about him and assures her he'll always be close by to look in on her.
As he turns to leave, Jessica notices that the back of his skull has a huge, gaping hole in it. Something is clearly rotten in the state of Denmark.
We're only a third of the way into the film and what follows is as hair-raising, chilling and shocking a series of events that put everything she's experienced into the realm of "kid's stuff".
To say Last Shift is terrifying is an understatement, but that it's superbly directed cannot be hammered home enough. DiBlasi has a great eye and feel for horror. Though we're in a claustrophobic setting, his widescreen and often single-shot compositions create an eerie feeling that we're following Jessica through some manner of purgatory and ultimately, Hell. With a myriad of shock cuts, a slow-sizzler pace and the heavy atmosphere of sheer creepiness pervades and assaults us with stylish aplomb.
The script is by no means completely all together. There are a few annoying logic issues and we're presented with a ten minute sequence near the end which feels like the picture's spinning its wheels. We're not bored so much as impatient for a resolution. Happily, we're offered even more scares and by the end, we're left breathless.
Last Shift grabs you by whatever appendages it can, twisting them to the max.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three and a half Stars
Last Shift is available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada. Feel free to order from the links below and in so doing, contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.