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GRAVEYARD SHIFT

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: David Andrews, Kelly Wolf, Stephen Macht, Brad Dourif
Director: Ralph S. Singleton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 88 Minutes
Release Date: May 28, 2002

ďThis place is infested.Ē

ďThat might be the understatement of the year.Ē

Film 1/2*

Graveyard Shift is no doubt based on one of the many short stories written by Stephen King. Watching the film, I realized that many of the horror films based on Kingís short stories donít fare very good as movies, with the big exception of Apt Pupil and Silver Bullet, which are worthy of superb entertainment value. Graveyard Shift, on the other hand, lacks any sort of entertaining value. Itís one thing to have a tired premise for a horror movie (a group of people trapped in an abandoned mill setting up against someone or, something) but to mix in some bad acting, an extremely sloppy screenplay, and most of all, an array of unimpressive set pieces and lackluster visual effects is a whole other set of issues no moviegoer should ever have to experience. You know youíre in trouble when the simple presence of multiple sewer rats upstages the performances of any of the human actors.

I seriously wonder if any of the filmmakers applied as much thought into the proper execution of this project as they did when applying the name of Stephen King in front of the titles, thinking it would sell the film and make it a hit. The story involves the run down mill, Bachman Textile, where working conditions are so demanding, the room temperature never dips below 100 degrees. The most fascinating plotline that baffled me the most is the fact that the mill isnít doing the numbers it should, and yet, itís the only place in town to get a job. What are the odds of that? I know Iím not the worldís most renowned genius when it comes to discussing the economy, but if this mill is the only place in a single town where one is able to apply for employment, should it even have to worry about numbers?

To make matters even worse, the ever so growing population of rats in sewers that lie below the mill have pretty much taken over, having been linked to several mysterious deaths and disappearances of numerous mill workers. This leaves the pit boss, Warwick (Stephen Macht, in a truly awful performance), with no other choice but to gather up a short notice clean up crew to begin a week long job, cleaning out the basement before the mill is shut down for good. The only catch is, the majority of the work has to be done during, you guessed it, the graveyard shift.

The rest of the film consists of the endless series of scenes weíve seen in countless movies before, such as Aliens, and even better scenario-clones as The Relic, Deep Rising, and even such recent horror outings as Jeepers Creepers. The group of mill workers are stalked, one by one, buy a mysterious something lurking in the sewers. All I will say about this mysterious thing is that it is big and slimy, and since the area is infested with rats, Iíll leave it up to you to guess this big thing actually is.

Another recent horror film I saw recently that has a similar scenario is the much-superior Session 9, which is about a clean up crew engaging in a week-long job at an abandoned mental hospital, that delivers a truly chilling outcome. That film worked because I at least bought into its chilling effect, and found myself more engaged by the performances and creepy atmosphere. For your viewing sake, I explicitly recommend you, dear reader, spend your money wisely on a worthwhile thriller like Session 9 than waste enormously on repetitive garbage like Graveyard Shift.

Video **

With this somewhat dull transfer, Iím actually glad that Paramount chose to present the movie this way, since it just may illustrate how much they probably disrespect this film as I do. The anamorphic presentation does the most it can with a movie that relies mostly on darkly lit settings, which donít turn up that impressively. The presentation is mostly laced with softness and noticeable grain for a good portion of the viewing. Several outdoor sequences fare much better, though.

Audio ***

Though I pretty much panned whatever effect this film tried to apply to me, Paramountís nicely done 5.1 audio mix does deliver the same level of impressive sound Iíve experienced for similar horror outings. The production level might be lacking, but this disc attempts to make the most of it, and nearly pulls it off.

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing, though even if the disc was a loaded one, Iím not sure I would care enough to look at any extras.

Summary:

My guess is that Stephen King himself, whoís disapproved of numerous film adaptations of his novels, didnít want anything to do with this particular release, and if so he should be grateful, as Graveyard Shift is by far the worst film Iíve ever experienced that carries the name of such a talented writer.