Original ideas are few and far between, and director/co-writer Anthony DiBlasi settles instead for making a solid job of the story he’s got. Essentially a combination of Assault on Precinct 13 and Silent Hill, Last Shift is an exercise in developing tension while providing enough clues to allow the audience to piece together the story before the predictable but well-handled ending.
Juliana Harkavy is Jessica Loren, a rookie cop on her first day and given the night shift at a station that will be closing come sunrise, looking after a roomful of old evidence that should have been cleared out but wasn’t. The opening of the movie doesn’t quite ring true (it’s hard to believe that a total newbie would be left entirely alone overnight, nor that she’d turn up for a shift with no idea of what it entailed), but Harkavy’s an engaging presence and the script and photography are restrained enough to encourage the suspension of disbelief. Once Loren is alone, odd things start happening (a tramp finds his way in without using the door, an emergency call is received although the phone lines have already been re-routed), and it soon becomes apparent that all is not well, and there is far more going on in the building than Loren could possibly have been prepared for.
DiBlasi mounts most of the scares very effectively, with a sense of unease that is palpable almost from the start. The script introduces and develops its themes at discrete enough intervals that the audience is persuaded to go along with the experience, when less well-paced films might have lost them. Nevertheless, as the reason for Loren’s ordeal becomes apparent, it’s difficult to shake off some of the illogicalities inherent in the premise, and DiBlasi can’t seem to decide whether his hauntings should be of the procedural or a more conventional variety, with some of the standard horror movie elements undermining the more effective moments. There are, however, a number of very successful ways in which fairly ordinary police practices are accommodated into the genre’s conventions, such that it’s easier to forgive many of the film’s more clichéd incidents. Although there is plenty of traditional horror imagery, it is the less typical visual cues that will stick in the mind.
Harkavy downplays the role of Loren, never allowing her acting to tip over into hysteria – which would have been an easier choice to make – and thus lending Last Shift more verisimilitude than it perhaps deserves; the understated nature of her performance carries the film when it might easily have become ludicrous. Far classier than most recent films in the genre, in spite of its flaws, Last Shift should easily satisfy most horror fans.
LAST SHIFT / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANTHONY DiBLASI / SCREENPLAY: ANTHONY DiBLASI, SCOTT POILEY / STARRING: JULIANA HARKAVY, JOSHUA MIKEL / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 18TH 2016