Fantasia 2020: '12 Hour Shift' is Chaotic with an Edgy Sense of Humor
by Zofia Wijaszka
August 25, 2020
Screened as a selection of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. Working is generally exhausting. Even if you love your job, it can still be draining. Every one of us has had a bad day at work, and it can be because of many different factors. However, I guarantee that you haven't had as horrible of a day at work as Mandy (Angela Bettis) in the film 12 Hour Shift. The second feature written & directed by actress Brea Grant (Best Friends Forever), is deeply entertaining and bloody. While engaging audiences with its sick sense of humor, 12 Hour Shift explores the world of a nurse going through the worst night of her life. With extreme edginess and wicked characters, this is my second favorite watch so far of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival.
The film takes place in Arkansas back in 1999. Mandy, the main character, is a drug addict and a nurse that spends more time getting high and cursing than actually helping any of her patients. Nobody seems to like her, which isn't entirely surprising after experiencing her sour attitude and general hate for every living human being. When she doesn't smoke like a chimney while standing by the vending machine, she smuggles organs and sells them to her cousin, Regina (Chloe Farnworth).
While the first twenty minutes focuses on Mandy being thoroughly exhausted by patient's inquires, it picks up right after we meet Regina. Do you know that kind of family member that's not too smart, rather clumsy, and often gets in trouble? That's Regina in a nutshell. During Mandy's double shift, all the problems begin when her cousin stops by to pick up a kidney from Mandy. While caring more about getting a soda than the organ itself, Regina leaves it by the hospital's vending machine. With that, the entire machinery of the film starts running at full steam, activating all the plotlines simultaneously. While Mandy attempts to find the missing kidney (that disappeared from its last known spot), Regina comes up with the "brilliant" idea of cutting an organ out of a living person. It doesn't take long to discover that this girl has no idea what a kidney looks like, or that a dialysis patient will certainly not help her with her troubling issue.
In the meantime, a guard arrives at the hospital with a killer named Jefferson (David Arquette) who had previously attempted suicide. Suddenly, all the storylines intertwine with the arrival of police, supervised by Officer Meyers (Kit Williamson). Mandy has to step back into the shadows and out of the circle of suspects all the while Regina continues to stumble over her plans and attracts Meyers' attention.
While Bettis' character is at the forefront, everyone has their issues and their own goals. Grant isn't gracious with any character – each of them is an unlikable anti-hero/ine that doesn't inspire any friendly feelings. But that's the point, and it's wickedly hilarious. I can easily confirm that Chloe Farnworth, as Regina, steals the entire film. Her character is so bubbly and extremely energetic. It's remarkably amusing, especially thinking about her secret mission of retrieving a missing kidney. There is an interesting dynamic between the characters of Mandy and Regina. It's fun to watch them together on screen, particularly with blood all over them and kidney (or a bladder) in their hands. David Arquette, who's also a producer of 12 Hour Shift, isn't in this that much. Although the actor is only a funny footnote, he's still a great addition to the film. Plus, it's highly enjoyable to see him as a tough, tattooed criminal who rocks a white ribbed tank top.
Grant's 12 Hour Shift is chaotic and messy, just like the hospital at full capacity. The film perfectly captures this atmosphere. At the same time, she gives a few nods to 90s – the decade that I absolutely worship. The hospital almost has the feeling of an old-timey Polish film or series, which immediately had my heart. Throughout the film, we can see a round wooden table in the cafeteria or a simple coffee machine, and even a square, thick TV. There is also a plain white clock hanging on the wall and a lot of patterns: patterned curtains, patterned sweaters, and more. All are true signs of the 90s – there's even a person with a rat tail.
Brea Grant certainly knows what she's doing with 12 Hour Shift. For one, she's paying tribute to the 90s and perfectly captures its essence. At the same time, she understands the turmoil in hospitals and provides audiences with an exceptional, invigorating, and adventurous story about one hell of a search for a kidney. What pairs well with the situations in the film is a unique score by Matt Glass. Quick notes and intrusive, edgy tempo work great and automatically are noticed by the audience. 12 Hour Shift is a dark comedy that's eloquent and bold in its storytelling. Gory elements, a chaotic narrative, and one crazy cousin elevate a rather basic story about a nurse who has a problem with drugs. If you're a fan of bloody horror films and a dry sense of humor, Grant has made something you will enjoy.
Zofia's Fantasia 2020 Rating: 4 out of 5
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