Thursday, March 07, 2024

Night Shift

There is a good reason why so many horror films are set in hotels. You never know what might be behind all those doors. There is The Shining and The Innkeepers, but obviously it all started with Psycho. As it happens, the All Tucked Inn rather resembles the Bates Motel. It is a sleepy motor inn off the highway, with about twenty rowhouse-style rooms and considerable taxidermy mounted on the office walls. This will be Gwen Taylor’s first night as the overnight clerk and it might also be her last in the China Brothers (Benjamin & Paul)’s Night Shift, which releases tomorrow in theaters and on VOD.

Teddy Miles, is a little weird, but in awkward horndog kind of way, rather than in a creepy Norman Bates fashion. Once he leaves, the strange happenings start, leading Taylor to suspect the motel is haunted. Her fears will be confirmed by Alice Marsh, one of the few guests, who explains she wanted to stay in the All Tucked Inn, because of its uncanny reputation. Taylor sees several ghostly figures that come and go, but the stalkerish car that keeps cruising around the motel might be entirely mortal, but even more dangerous—especially because she thinks she might know who it is.

Night Shift is an effectively ambiguous mixture of supernatural and psycho-killer elements. Unfortunately, the China Brothers’ screenplay falls back on one of genre fans’ most despised plot twist. We have seen this one many times before, but this time it feels like a particularly cheap contrivance.

It is quite a shame, because the first two thirds of the film are clever and often drily amusing. Phoebe Tonkin has some nice freak-outs as Taylor. As Miles, Lamorne Morris gets a good deal of laughs by finding the right, goldilocks tone—eccentric but not too shticky. Madison Hu is reasonably normie and also pretty compelling as Marsh. Christopher Denham and Fischler add a lot of color as difficult guests.

The Chinas get a great deal of mileage from the eerie motel setting and the stages some better-than-average job scares. At least sixty percent of
Night Shift is a nifty little chiller, Frankly, that is more than what you get from a lot of horror movies. Recommended for genre fans when it this free streamers, Night Shift hits theaters and VOD tomorrow (3/8).