Director: Ralph S. Singleton
Graveyard Shift is a highly entertaining horror adaption of a Stephen King short story. Filthy to the core and respectively portrayed, this underrated little yarn packs quite a unique punch with its rustic locations, colorful characters, and abominable monster. Amassed with an abundance of atmosphere and a sly dark comedic tone, Graveyard Shift amuses to no end as we are presented with a cinematic world that is off the wall, yet still strangely congruent with the cast of unusual characters that reside within its disheveled walls.
The film is set within the confines of a small country town and its centralized textile mill, where the factory serves as the only source of employment for the struggling town. A stranger named John Hall strolls in looking for a job and because of a recent death at the textile mill, Hall is able to be hired rather quickly. Unknown to him though is that the mill has had a sordid history of accidental deaths, all which have happened to men who have had Hall's job before him. An unspoken evil dwells in the dark of the old mill. Something that lives in the underbelly of the aged factory. An ancient evil that lurks below in the shadows and only surfaces to feed on the flesh of men. Will John just be another tasty snack for this mysterious beast, or will his presence in this dead town finally bring about some much needed change?
David Andrews takes on the role of John Hall, the lone wanderer with a heart of gold who has just swept into town. Andrews does an excellent job with the underplayed role, giving it a subtle nuance that doesn't overwhelm the audience or take us out of the story. He seamlessly blends in with the look and feel of the film, making you believe that this fictional place and time that he inhabits could be the real McCoy. Often at times he takes the lead role with impeccable fortitude, making you wonder why you haven't seen him in more films other than this wonderfully wild entry. In Graveyard Shift, he simply nails it as he gives a commendable performance that is truly genuine and noble.
Collaborating beautifully off of Andrews subdued performance is Stephen Macht as the boastful and over the top boss man, Warwick. As owner of the textile mill and the most powerful man in town, Macht makes good with the tyrannical flavor and he milks it for all it's worth. You'd be hard pressed to find a more arrogant, intimidating asshole in all of cinema, and Macht does a truly remarkable job with the stereotypical character. You love to hate him and that is ideally what he is there for, but there is an added flare to his performance that really makes you stand up and take notice whenever he bursts on to the scene. The guy is a wild man and the character of Warwick allows him to go all out in highly entertaining fashion.
Aside from the living breathing counterparts of this film, the true eye-catcher of the picture would be the old textile mill itself. The location begs to be explored and the filmmakers do everything in their power to showcase to us its labyrinth-like corridors, endless sub-basements, and unexplored caverns. With a breadth of visual ammunition, the film unloads with a cacophony of wonderfully macabre locales which just ooze with atmosphere and seem drenched in rot and rust. As measures of authenticity go, Graveyard Shift has some of the most impressively lived in locations that I have ever had the privilege to witness on the screen. The natural decay and age of the old mill is astoundingly genuine and the fact that we are taken on a wild journey throughout this foreboding structure, from top to the very bottom, is an admiral display of imagery which push along the narrative into uncharted territories.
At the heart of this story though is the illusive, but very real, beast of the film. Shrouded in mystery and mostly kept out of view, this monstrosity is a wonder of practical effects, proving that you don't have to go all out with computer graphics in order to instill life into a fictional cinematic creature. Deliberately built up as the movie moves along, the filmmakers make a tremendous effort in slowly revealing the beast until the closing moments of the film. The tactic works perfectly, as you are always guessing to what this thing truly is. Even when we are revealed to the overall look of the monster, we still aren't sure as to what we are looking at. A combination of various animals and monstrosities, the beast of the film has an exceptionally original look to it, and it is through this unfamiliar appearance which makes the horror that much more real and bona fide. With the combination of outstanding creature effects, remarkably entertaining characters, and a wholly believable rotten textile mill, you end up with one of the most enjoyable little unknown gems to have ever snuck by audiences in years.
Graveyard Shift is an unbelievably fun film which takes its meager origins and runs with it. Based off of Stephen King's work and oozing with atmosphere, this modest entry genuinely portrays its setting in the most succinct of ways, allowing for the viewer to be soaked right up into the proceedings without a single thought. David Andrews and Stephen Macht do a fantastic job with their characters, and the contrasting nature of the two frontrunners makes for some explosive and tense filled moments. As an added bonus, Brad Dourif, Kelly Wolf, Andrew Divoff, Vic Polizos, and Robert Alan Beuth all give extremely memorable performances that really help to round out the denizens of the town.
On the visual front the film has the goods, boasting outstanding production value in its locations and creature effects, while relishing in the unkempt look of it all. Balanced with an unrestrained handle, the production vividly portrays a mind-boggling tour of the mill's grounds as we are taken to the very depths of the foundation's structure in the most brash of ways. Uncommonly, when it comes to the revealing of the monster in the movie the filmmakers go in the opposite direction, opting to gradually build up its beast with small reveals as the story moves along. The end result is nothing less than spectacular and it is the combination of all of these factors that equate to the film being so damn entertaining and enduring. If you're looking for a creature-feature that is just as determined to wow you with its effects as it is to engage you with its characters and locations, then look no further because this overlooked beast is just what the doctor ordered. Graveyard Shift is.....
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