Angela Bettis is mesmerizing as a complicated anti-hero in “12 Hour Shift”, the ferociously fun, female-driven horror comedy from Brea Grant.
If you’re a younger millennial who grew up obsessed with horror like me, you probably already know who Angela Bettis is. Breaking out in the indie horror scene as the titular character in Lucky McKee’s May, she became an indie horror icon instantly. She’s popped up in a lot of your favorite tv shows since then, like Dexter and Criminal Minds, but hasn’t graced a feature genre film in a while.
That changes with 12 Hour Shift. Nearly two decades after her star turn in May, Bettis delivers another tour-de-force performance in the wonderfully twisted new black horror comedy from writer/directed Brea Grant.
Bettis continues to command all the attention as Mandy, a drug-addicted, Arkansas ER nurse who is overworked, overtired, irritable, and underpaid enough to dip into selling organs on the black market for some extra cash. As it turns out, organ stealing is a family business. Mandy hustles organs from people who die in the hospital she works at, while her cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth) delivers the goods to an unscrupulous crime boss.
Mandy begins a brutal 12 hour shift by giving Regina a kidney out back by the coke machine.
But when Regina goes to drop off the cooler carrying the merchandise to her boss, Nicholas (played by the always wonderful Mick Foley), there’s no organ inside… just cold pop. Nicholas warns her that she better find a way to replace his kidney, or else he’ll just have to take hers instead.
In a panic, she returns to the hospital to shake Mandy down for another organ. Mandy informs her that this isn’t the way things work; she’s just trying to do enough drugs to get her through a miserable night at work.
But Regina can’t take no for an answer and sneaks into the hospital to get a kidney anyway she can — resulting in massive bloodshed, hilarious run-ins with incompetent cops, and a savage fight with a surprisingly strong older woman.
The entire cast absolutely shines in 12 Hour Shift.
Andy Bettis’ Mandy is the best grumpy nurse I’ve ever seen. You might have trouble empathizing with her at the start of the film, wondering why she has to scowl no matter what is happening around her. But by the end, you can’t help but feel for her and root for her to survive the fallout from the worst night of her life. While she may be a deeply flawed character, she’s ultimately a passionate nurse who gives her all to her job, in spite of making a series of very bad choices.
Chloe Farnworth portrays the perfect mix of a woman who’s situated squarely between bumbling idiot and raging psychopath.
Foley may not have a lot of screen time, but he’s full of charisma and shines in every scene he’s in. Meanwhile, Brooke Seguin is the absolute bitch of a boss we’ve all had to work, and she’s unnervingly good at making you hate her character. One of the parts that really made me laugh out loud was when she blames Mandy for a patient’s injury (caused by Regina), even though both she and Mandy were being interviewed by the police together every moment up to that point.
For me, the absolute best supporting character was Tom DeTrinis’ Mr. Kent, a hypochondriac who spends the entire movie harassing the nurses to try to get a room for god knows what. When his role in the night’s chaotic events is revealed, I laughed so hard I snorted.
Grant delivers a memorable, off-the-wall and blood-soaked romp on a tiny budget.
Though delightfully deranged, 12 Hour Shift still feels remarkably grounded in reality, thanks in large part to the strength of Grant’s stellar cast.
The use of music in the film is inspired, and Matt Glass scores the film with an infectious mania that anchors the film beautifully between madcap caper and gory horror. Equal parts disturbing and comedic, the film mixes elements of a gospel-infused, jazzy pop opera with tense melodrama. At once point in the film, there’s even a gleefully irreverent musical number that should feel out of place, but somehow completely works.
The reason it works — the reason everything works — is because of the masterful way Grant orchestrates the chaos. As a viewer, you never know what to expect from one moment to the next. Anything can and does happen, and you welcome the wild ride. The tonal shifts feel deliberate rather than disjointed — a testament to Grant’s finesse as a filmmaker.
12 HOUR SHIFT is playful, hilarious, and utterly insane. But it’s also full of heart and never forgets that it’s a horror film as well as a comedy — embracing the beauty of flawed characters and the tragedy of struggles that never seem to end.
At the end of the hardest shift of her career, Mandy is afforded only a quick nap in her truck, in the hospital parking lot, before having to head right back and do it all over again. And there’s an overwhelming sense that things don’t get easier from here. A 12 hour shift isn’t out of the ordinary for any nurse, and some days they might even see as much blood as the nurses in this film do.
Treat your nurses well, lest Regina and Mandy come for your kidney next.