Sunday, March 17, 2024

Cinequest ’24: Shift

Some jobs are supposed to be boring or you are not doing them right. Late-night security guards are a good example. That is what Tom does for a living and he does it really badly. He starts to hatch all sorts of suspicions during the long nights he works at a 24-hour storage facility in director-screenwriter Max Neace’s Shift, which screens as part of the 2024 Cinequest.

Tom is a loser, who wants a job that will help him embrace his loserness. Your Storage in Washington Park, Chicago looks like just the ticket. His boss Hal seems a bit shifty, so to speak, but it is hard for Tom to pin down exactly how. Aside from a little mopping, Tom can just sit on the creaky office chair Hal dubbed “Grace Kelly” and watch the security monitors. Since it is the late 1990s, he does not have a smart phone to distract himself. Instead, he listens to Iris Keen, a DJ, who combines true crime talk with soul and adult contemporary.

Being relatively conscientious, Tom notices one of the cameras has slipped out of position. It happens to cover the unit rented by Mr. and Mrs. Jones, two of their regular customers. That is suspiciously convenient, because Tom knows he saw Mrs. Jones bring a younger man into the Your Storage one night, but he never saw him left.

As Tom’s voyeuristic paranoia escalates, Grace Kelly offers her commentary like a sarcastic Greek chorus. Yes, the chair talks, via silent subtitles. It might sound questionably eccentric, but the subtitles are unobtrusive and they are often archly droll. Frankly, “she” is funny enough to earn
Shift a lot of extra goodwill.

Sean O’Bryan is also a lot of jolly fun to watch slimily chewing the scenery as Hal. Thanks to him and Grace Kelly,
Shift often is more successful as a dark comedy than a Body Heat-ish thriller, because the femme fatale business never really heats up. Indeed, the chemistry between Connor McGill, as Tom and Mrs. Jones, is unconvincing. However, Angela Alise and David Abed add a lot of the right kind of attitude as Keen (mostly unseen until the final epilogue) and Mike Escobar, a former Your Storage employee, who might know something.

is sort of a throwback to both quirky 1990s indie thrillers and lurid straight-to-video erotic mysteries. It is not a homerun, but it offers a good deal of fun. Recommended for veterans of the graveyard shift, Shift screens today (3/17) on the closing day of this year’s Cinequest.