Stars: Angela Bettis, David Arquette, Chloe Farnworth Director: Brea Grant Distributor: Signature Entertainment
“That’s sweet, but where are my f*cking organs?!”
A WILD, though gradually comedic film, 12 Hour Shift is the titular shift of Mandy (Angela Bettis), a drug-addict nurse who steals organs… Released during a time where nurses and those working in healthcare altogether are the recipients of unlimited respect and empathy, the rogue concept of this film is instantly more effective and chilling upon the viewer. In the real world, doctors and nurses are heroes who help people live, but when those same heroes are flipped into villainy beyond acceptability, nightmares can become real.
Nurse Mandy is embarking on a double-shift at a low-scale Arkansas hospital. She’s completely dead behind the eyes – as dead as those whom she steals organs from. Her operation is in cooperation with two others: a fellow nurse, Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner). and her ridiculous cousin, Regina (Chloe Farnworth). The film doesn’t glamourise the operation nor does it present the wrongdoings across a number of weeks or months, like many crime-based films would. This is all during one night. One double-shift.
Hours into the shift, Mandy’s drugs have kicked in and she’s ready to get down to business. Waiting by the backdoor, having driven what looks like a Barbie Doll car, is Regina – Mandy’s cousin-by-marriage, not her real cousin, as continually reminded by the nurse. A wad of cash is exchanged for the organ. The money is passed on to fellow nurse Karen, and the organ is passed on to Nicholas (Mick Foley the wrestler)…or so they had hoped. After misplacing the delivery goods, Regina is sent back to the hospital to recover the organs otherwise she’s to be dragged back by her hair! Her return to the hospital ultimatrely leads to the worst shift possible for Mandy when everything that could go wrong certainly does go wrong at every corner.
Angela Bettis’ lack of enthusiasm in her performance ties in perfectly with the context, resulting in the performance actually being perfect. Her character, Mandy, really doesn’t want to be there – is that why she takes drugs on shift? How did she even get the job in the hospital? There are so many intriguing questions to be asked. With her cousin (by marriage), Regina, causing hiccups left, right and centre, the continuous run of disasters all over the hospital grounds begin to actually reflect the natural ongoings health workers have to deal with.
The assistance of Chloe Farnworth’s Regina not only establishes an unwanted comedy sidekick, but a turning point in 12 Hour Shift’s transition from being morbid in its context to all-out mayhem. Regina’s presence is disastrous to the equilibrium of the hospital – successfully pretending to be a nurse (how?), she manages to ruin the day-to-day duties of a nurse as well as Mandy’s organ theft. Though Regina is responsible for transcending the film, she is not alone – the transcendence into increased violence and escalated gore is a result from the influence from the interference and involvement of more semi-cartoonish characters. Dude Love, sorry, Nicholas (Mick Foley) sending in the heavy mob to deal with Regina after losing a kidney for one of his clients, as well as David Arquette portraying a suicidal murderer – with the vibe of Assault on Precinct 13’s Darwin Joston – getting in on the action, all contribute individual errors and actions which leads to collective mayhem.
The writer-director, Brea Grant, more famed for her acting work, has accomplished a great deal with this film. 12 Hour Shift successfully and effectively shapeshifts between crime, drama, black comedy, and horror. It’s a magnificent achievement to succeed in this way of storytelling. Grant ensures that the film is never too heavy in its trajectory of genre and style. 12 Hour Shift isn’t read as a serious text on the black market organ trade nor is it an exploitation of blood and guts. With very careful precision, a comedic tone is gradually present and able to flow without forcing the film to be too funny or trying too hard to be funny. In its 1999 setting, the 90s aspect isn’t forced with tongue-in-cheek elements either. Though hilariously, there is a romance in 12 Hour Shift existing in 1999, back when both Mick Foley and David Arquette were at their most culturally relevant.
12 Hour Shift is out now on DVD (US), Blu-ray (US), and Digital (US & UK) now. Many thanks to Signature Entertainment and FrightFest for the pleasure of this film.
This article’s featured image: By Source, Signature Entertainment, Fair Use https://www.signature-entertainment.co.uk/film/12-hour-shift/