12 Hour Shift (3 stars)

12 Hour Shift

This novel take on the nursing profession offers plenty of bad taste antics and laughs

Although horror favourite Angela Bettis (2002's Carrie, May, Toolbox Murders) is the main reason to watch this comedy thriller from sophomore writer-director Brea Grant, there's plenty to tickle those who like their humour pitch black. Set in Arkansas at the tail end of the 90s, 12 Hour Shift gives us a bad taste departure from the usual saintly presentation of nurses – here they are bitchy at best and stone-cold killers at worst.

When we meet Bettis's drug-addicted Mandy, she's about to start the first of two back-to-back shifts and is being dressed down by fellow nurse Cathy (Julianne Dowler), who's on her way home. Her other colleagues, including her supervisor Janet (Brooke Seguin) and the devout Dorothy (Tara Perry), aren't much better, but Mandy is on good terms with Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner), who it transpires is her partner in crime in an organ harvesting operation.

Also involved in the scheme is Mandy's chaotic cousin-in-law Regina (British actress Chloe Farnworth). A wild-eyed David Arquette (who also produces with wife Christine McLarty Arquette) plays a dangerous prisoner, who arrives shackled to his bed, and there's nice work from Kit Williamson (who had a recurring role on Mad Men) as the dopey Officer Myers, who is slow on the uptake regarding the escalating depravity.

If 12 Hour Shift depicts the bewildering slog of a nightmare working day, it's as slender as anything. However, pacing is a problem here, it lacks a bit of tempo and pep, and could use a few more killer lines, while better use of music (largely limited to a few growly, metal-esque chants) would have helped some of the scenes pop. However, there are some superb touches, including a singalong to hymn 'Are You Washed in the Blood?', and the kick-in-the-teeth that accompanies the end credits. And Bettis's dog-tired, deadpan and often out-of-it protagonist provides a strong dramatic focus. It's also a film that comes exhilaratingly into its own during the eventful, sometimes hilarious denouement. The more outlandish it gets the better – when punches fly, gore spurts and vending machines topple, it's bloody good fun.

Available to watch on demand from Mon 25 Jan.

12 Hour Shift

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 26min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Brea Grant
  • Cast: Angela Bettis, Chloe Farnworth, Nikea Gamby-Turner, Kit Williamson, David Arquette