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“Night Shift” offers a punchy and pretty-in-pink version of a motel murder movie. Is it worth checking in to this thriller for a night?

Easter Bloody Easter just landed on digital. Read on to find out if you should rent, stream, or skip it. 

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My review of this film needs to be split into two blocks: pre-twist and post-twist. 

So, here’s what I loved pre-twist.

Do you know what horror movie really lingered in my mind as a kid? Pet Sematary. The recurring vision isn’t the one you’d guess, though. It’s not about Zelda or Gage with a scalpel.

The house I grew up in, and all the neighboring ones on our street, were old — built in the early 1900s kind of old. Our street lights were unreliable and spread far apart, resulting in many uneasy “vibes” for those like me with a wild imagination.

There was a big window facing the street that gave a panoramic view of our street as I headed up to my room. There was only one working street lamp on the east side of the street that shone an orangish-yellow onto the rocky, semi-paved street, and these big white metal “horses” used to slow speeding cars. At night, I would run up the stairs because I would see glimpses of Victor Pascow out there.

On nights when my parents were away, I would sleep with scissors under my pillow. Pascow or his haunting mates wouldn’t catch me unprepared. 

Watching Gwen (Phoebe Tonkin, who gave me welcome wisps of Margaret Qualley) navigate the All Tucked Inn alone at night?

It was done effectively enough — jump scares, some haunted happenings via phone and closed-circuit camera — to unearth those unsettled feelings of being a young girl home alone.

Gwen also looked to her pointy sidekicks (knives, scissors) for protection throughout Night Shift. I couldn’t help but smile in those little moments of solidarity over the distinctly female experience of constantly preparing to defend oneself when alone. Final girl skills are honed over time, folks. 

Those skills almost came in handy as Gwen navigated the rich, riled up, and repulsive couple Warner (Patrick Fischler, with his consistently striking presence) and Birdie (Lauren Bowles). Their scene was one of my favorites. 

Speaking of the supporting cast, even if their parts were thinly written, Madison Hu and Lamorne Morris filled out their roles as Alice and Teddy nicely and offered solid contributions.  

The post-twist second half?  

WARNING: PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD

I am totally cool with the writing-directing team of Benjamin China and Paul China offering of a self-aware PSYCHO/THE SHINING/BARBIE mash-up. While some suspension of disbelief is required, come on, people. We have excused psychiatric/mental health hospitals and prison escapes from countless horror movies and shows. Just go with it. 

I’m also a lot more accepting of these kinds of interpretations when they acknowledge they’re borrowing heavily, which Night Shift does.

I mean, the choice to take an axe to a white bathroom door during a chase scene after a big mental health reveal isn’t coincidental. And the Norman nods felt more modern — more Bates Motel than Psycho. Yet, the reference is clear.

I throw BARBIE in because of the ending. The motel’s and Gwen’s makeover give the ultimate Killer Barbie. (Ooh, could we ask Greta Gerwig to run with that idea? Please?) 

Now, you may have a few arguments to make me re-evaluate my relationship with Night Shift. I can anticipate and appreciate all the reasons you could give me for why I should not have liked this film as much as I did.

Yes, there were a few rats and roaches the China Brothers probably should have addressed; however, I’m still happy to report my stay at the Inn was a pleasant one. 

RENT IT, STREAM IT, OR SKIP IT?
RENT IT. Overall, Night Shift was exactly what I needed when I watched it, and I have zero qualms about recommending a stay at the All Tucked Inn. I appreciate that this might hang precariously on your horror watch list, like the bust of Yogi in the All Tucked Inn lobby. If it falls off, do make an effort to hang it back up until you eventually give it a watch. Like me, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised at the quality of the accommodations. If you’re risk-averse, you can wait for streaming, but I’d deem it worth the rent. 

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

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