Anthony DiBlasi’s latest offering is the Assault on Precinct 13-inspired Last Shift, a relatively solid excursion into supernatural territory with some great scares up its sleeve and some nice references on its mind.
For her first shift, rookie cop Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) spends the night at a decommissioned station. Her job: to keep an eye on things until the remaining evidence in storage is collected in the early hours.
DiBlasi’s fourth feature credit is essentially a haunted house film, granted the pacing of a thriller thanks to its setting and whip-smart heroine. It’s not a huge step away from the mould, but it’s enough of one to give the proceedings a definite edge. First off, the station itself is a great setting and DiBlasi quickly exploits the ominous unseen back area and the dangerous night time environment of the street out front. Perched between the two is Harkavy’s likeable new-start, a thankfully sharp-witted cop who usually jumps to the safest and fastest conclusion before you get a chance to shout it at the screen. Keeping clocks within viewing distance really helps cement the idea that this is one continuous night of terror whilst keeping the end in sight.
DiBlasi is a horror fan, obviously, but this is probably his most focused film because it has a consistent attachment to its ideas. Cassadaga is a bit of everything, an ode to Fulci and the pigeon-brained 80’s camp found in features like Pieces. Last Shift prides itself on consistently reminding the audience exactly what kind of night they are in for. Some of the scares are masterful products of minimal imagery and DiBlasi’s own impressive editing, others are spontaneous moments of schlocky nonsense, more akin to the shocks of 2009’s Dread. When the film starts to rely on pop-up ghosts adorned with pentagrams doodled in blood, the initial shock will give way to disappointment. Scares like that just don’t stick.
The thing that really stands out about Last Shift is that, for all its bravado, its actually got a lot of heart, a lot of care and time to spend cultivating scares. As with all DiBlasi’s films, J. LaRose (Saw 3) appears though, again, doesn’t get much to do. His turn as a mute homeless guy marks him a more natural kind of scary than the film’s try-hard villain performed by Joshua Mikel. It’s unfortunate because the casting of the film’s occult baddies is symptomatic of the overall clash between serious scares and try-hard shock.
DiBlasi’s most accomplished feature to date, Last Shift is actually a predominantly thrilling horror film with a great lead performance from Juliana Harkavy and some impressively edited scares.
Dir: Anthony DiBlasi
Stars: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, J. LaRose, Sarah Sculco, Randy Molnar, Kathryn Kilger