Movie Reviews
Night Shift (2024).

Night Shift Review: Supernatural Chills and Claustrophobia

Night Shift offers a promise of melding supernatural chills with the nerve-wracking suspense of psychological thrillers. Directed by the sibling duo Paul and Benjamin China, the film centers on the debut night shift of Gwen Taylor (Phoebe Tonkin), who quickly realizes her job at a remote motel may entail more than she bargained for. Supported by Lamorne Morris as Teddy Miles and Madison Hu as Alice, the film weaves a tale of intrigue, mystery, and terror that endeavors to set itself apart from the myriad of horror movies in the industry. The outcome is a piece that, while earnest in its effort, yields mixed results. However, it does boast a whopper of a twist ending that will leave you completely shocked. It’s one of the most shocking twists in recent horror movie history, to be honest.

At the outset, Night Shift benefits greatly from its casting choices. Phoebe Tonkin delivers a performance that marries vulnerability with a burgeoning sense of fortitude. As Gwen, she is immediately relatable, embodying the apprehensions and uncertainty that accompany a new job. Especially one situated in a desolate locale and shrouded in nocturnal shadows. Tonkin’s portrayal allows the audience to latch onto her emotional journey, making the unraveling horrors not just an external experience but an internal one as well. Lamorne Morris and Madison Hu complement this dynamic well, serving both as plot devices and as deeper characters in their own rights, adding layers to the narrative.

The film’s setting plays a character all its own, a trope often employed in horror to great effect. The remote motel is laden with a foreboding silence and a creeping sense of isolation that the China brothers skillfully exploit. This backdrop, coupled with the film’s cinematography, manages to be simultaneously claustrophobic and expansive, imbuing every frame with tension. The visual aesthetics of Night Shift do much of the heavy lifting in cultivating an atmosphere brimming with anticipation and dread.

However, where Night Shift begins to falter is in its ambition to blend the supernatural with a psychological thriller framework. The premise, though not entirely original, offers a fertile ground for exploration, hinting at Gwen’s past coming back to haunt her in literal and metaphorical ways. The build-up is engaging, drawing the viewer into a maze of suspense and mysteries. Nonetheless, as the plot thickens, the movie struggles to maintain a coherent narrative, wavering between its supernatural elements and the psychological unraveling of its protagonist.

The script has brilliant moments but becomes convoluted when handling different themes. The initial intrigue established starts to feel burdensome as the plot advances. This leaves some story arcs underdeveloped and others teetering on the edge of cliché. The pacing suffers as a result, with certain sequences dragging on, while others rush towards resolutions that lack satisfying build-up or explanation.

Moreover, the film’s endeavor to inject supernatural occurrences sometimes feels at odds with the psychological thriller tone it initially sets. While supernatural horror can enhance the psychological distress of characters, Night Shift at times blurs the line too much. This leads to a narrative dissonance that might leave viewers perplexed rather than terrified.

Despite these criticisms, Night Shift shines in its ability to create suspense out of minimalistic situations and settings. The directors masterfully utilize shadows, sounds, and suggestive horror. They prove that terror doesn’t always have to be overt to be effective. This subtlety is where the film excels, embedding a lingering sense of unease that stays with the viewer.

Additionally, the performances across the board are commendable. Tonkin, as mentioned, stands out, but the supporting cast also brings depth to their roles. Lamorne Morris injects both warmth and complexity into the narrative. Meanwhile, Madison Hu delivers a performance that is both eerie and engaging. Their interactions weave a palpable tension that carries the film through its less coherent moments.

Night Shift ultimately stands as a testament to the China brothers’ ambition and creativity in the horror genre. It endeavors to offer something fresh, a hybrid of terror and mystery that melds into a truly memorable experience. The film’s execution falls short, but it showcases the potential of mixing genres and exploring fear.

With a running time that allows for an exploration of its premise yet occasionally falters, Night Shift deserves a watch. Its atmospheric tension, strong performances, and moments of genuine suspense make it a worthy watch for horror enthusiasts.

  • Acting - 8/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 7/10
  • Setting/Theme - 7/10
  • Watchability - 7.5/10
  • Rewatchability - 6.5/10
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