Because I once got robbed at the shitty video rental I worked at temporarily, I got to spend a lovely night at a police station. Because it was a late night shift and – I think – they had moved most of the personnell to a newer building, I got the whole creepy, empty and dark hallways, grainly video feeds of the doorways and some horrible second hand stories from the policemen who was supposed to take my statement but was busy with a burn victim (an apparent suicide). so, let’s just say: Night Shifts are absolutely terrifying.
It’s no wonder then, that the night shift, graveyard shift, whatever is a lovely topic for horror movies, some of which are pretty good (some of which are not).
Let us Prey (2014)
A weird stranger appears at a police station and suddenly, everyone seems to lose their mind.
Honestly, that’s basically the story if you don’t want to get spoilered to pieces. This movie is GORY! It starts quite lame (and this is coming from me, who loves endless intros to set atmosphere and introduce characters, heck, I enjoyed reading the extended “The Stand” and did not skip one single page) but the acting is solid and the second half of the movie kind of makes up for it. But don’t look for a particularly smart story. It’s not even a particularly smart concept (you see what I mean with the other entries in this list) but it’s entertaining for a one-time watch and at least it’s not “Storm of the Century”, although it feels a lot like it at times. And I kind of equally rolled my eyes at the ending with this one, so I guess if you liked “Storm of the century”, this will be your jam.
Last Shift (2014)
New on the job, police woman Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) has to spend the night at an old police building before everyone moves to a new one. Alone on the job and only connected to her colleagues via phone, she notices weird things happening.
I am not the biggest fan of “is the protagonist going crazy or is there something going on”-theme of A LOT of horror movies. There is a clear distinction between movies like “The Babadook” that basically visualize the horror of a mentally unstable person and movies like “Gothika” which are simply confusingly stupid.
“Last Shift” tends to veer more into the second category but as a low budget movie with some decent scares and a pretty good lead, it’s still a nice one-time watch (however, the sound mixing is horrendous. There’s a lot of phone calls with the person on the other line being SUPER quiet even though their information is crucial for the plot). It’s like that low talker in Seinfeld, only that stuff’s going down around you and you’re like: what? Did he say something bad? What’s going on?
A late night radio show host and his team has to deal with weird happenings in the city. Is it only a prank and is his studio safe enough for the night?
Pontypool is an amazing movie. It has a slow intro that really works, mainly because protagonist Steven McHattie (what a name!) as radio show host Grant is absolutely fantastic in his role. I volunteered for a local radio station and did more late than early shifts, so I know the kind of atmosphere and skeleton crew during those hours and it’s very authentic (also, as someone who has a lovely radio voice as well, I can tell you: we all look very disappointing in real life, once you made up your dream images based on our soothing narrations).
The whole concept works especially well because this “Kammerspiel” has basically one set (the studio) and that is all you need. This movie also shows that sometimes less is more and that suggesting things and creating visuals in the mind of the viewer works just as well as any CGI and SFX extravaganza.
The Void (2016)
A deputy finds a hurt man on the run and gets him to the hospital. That’s when things get really wrong … (oh yeah, also, it’s night, which should come as no surprise).
From all the late night shift-movies in this list, The Void is probably the weirdest. It starts like at least two others in this playlist and then goes absolutely hog wild (like a beautiful Cronenberg-Lovecraftian Happy Meal minus Cronenbergs layers of layers of symbolism, though).
I therefore recommend, in case you plan a night shift-horror marathon, to NOT start with this movie. The most anti climactic version of this playlist would be The Void first and finishing with Let us Prey unless you like a cool-off movie at the end of it. It’s wild.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
I already covered this movie in my “female bodies“-list but it’s a solid entry for this one as well. A pathologist and his apprentice son have to find out the reason of death of a young woman’s body (in the middle of the night, no less!). Soon after, things go awfully wrong.
Although this movie loses a little bit of momentum towards the ending (in my humble opinion), the first half is absolutely beautiful. It’s creepy, tense and you really want to know what comes next. The storytelling is done mainly through the dialog between father and son (beautifully played by Emile Hirsch* and Brian Cox and what they discover. In the second half, the whole shebang gets a little formulaic but still manages to be creepy and disturbing.
*Who is a dick who hits women, just in case you try to avoid giving movies with these kind of men any airtime/attention.