I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
Last night I was browsing through my Netflix look for something to watch, whilst simultaneously expecting not to watch anything and pass out on my couch. I passed by this totally not terrible looking film, and decided that maybe it’ll be alright, or at least better than Unfriended.
Last Shift follows rookie cop Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) on her first night out on the job. Oddly enough, she is stationed at the old police HQ for the night on the last ever shift there, before everything is officially moved to the new HQ. As the night goes along, weird visions, strange noises, and freaky shit starts to go down as officer Loren begins to learn a dark secret about the station and its former residents.
Last Shift is essentially a haunted house film, except with a police station locale. I don’t usually like ghost films, because they tend to “cheat” the viewer. What I mean by that is, filmmakers use ghosts in movies to create cheap false scares that allow for the protagonist to not be in any actual danger. For example, a character is walking down a hallway. The camera shows that something is following right behind her, and just as it is about to reach the character she turns around to reveal there is nothing there. That’s such a lazy way to try and build tension or generate a scare. Having ghosts pop up to produce a jump scare and then disappear is completely pointless in most horror movies. You’re trying tell the audience that these ghosts are scary and dangerous, while showing them the exact opposite. If all the ghosts do is pop out and say, “boo” the whole movie, why should an audience feel the characters are in danger since you could logically reason that the ghosts could kill any of these people at any time.
It’s just a way for the film to have the audience see something “scary” without really advancing the plot or any of the action. It’s super lame, super cheap, and I’m tired of watching movies where ghosts do stuff and the characters aren’t even aware of it. Who is the ghost trying to scare then?
Another misstep in ghost movies is that the main character is either the biggest skeptic ever, or refuses to tell or show evidence to anybody that there are obviously ghosts trying to kill them. It’s just completely illogical. If you saw dead people walking around, or heard a chorus of ghostly voices down the hall you’d get hell out. Instead we get characters interacting with ghosts and all other kinds of crazy shit, hanging around like everything’s going to be okay and they’re just seeing stuff. You can’t make your characters this stupid if you want the viewer to actually connect with them or care if they die. Caring about the fate of characters is not only essential to establishing a good horror movie, it’s essential to creating a good story! Why do you think Game of Thrones pulls in millions of viewers each week?
Unfortunately, Last Shift suffers from these familiar pitfalls. Loren shrugs off just about every ghost encounter for almost an hour. Ghosts pop out out of nowhere accompanied by a loud sound to startle you, which is why it’s called a “jump scare.” Despite all that, it’s actually pretty good for a horror film.
The film does a good job at establishing a claustrophobic atmosphere and does well at using creepy images and themes to slowly build tension throughout. Besides some of the lazier aspects of the film, the writing is actually good. The main character is not a giant walking caricature, the mythology is well conceived throughout the film, and there are some generally surprising moments that not only add to the story but provides the viewer with those “duh” realizations that are the signs of an intelligent film. The acting is also quite good for a low budget horror flick. Juliana Harkavy is basically on-screen for the entire run-time and plays her character in a convincing and mostly believable way.
Despite falling prey to genre tropes and some cheap gimmicks, Last Shift is a solid horror movie that doesn’t treat it’s audience as a bunch of idiots. Any genre fans should give it a chance, though it may not be to everyone’s taste.
Overall Score: 3.5/5 stars
P.S. This film is not very gory, so if you have that problem don’t worry
Ever since The 6th Sense ghosts have been stacking shit on top of each other for no apparent reason. It’s like a bunch of horror filmmakers got together and decided that having things stacked on top of each other while the character isn’t looking is super scary or something. It’s probably just an item off of the Ghost To-Do List along with, “shaking head really fast” and, “standing behind a character and not do anything.”