Graveyard Shift (1990)
Stephen King took you to the edge with The Shining and Pet Sematary. This time......he pushes you over.
I found a bundle pack of Stephen King movies, and it contained a few of the ones that I really like. I should preface further - the ones I really like are generally the bottom of the barrel of Stephen King movies - minus The Shinning with Nicholson, we can all agree that one was great. I won’t necessarily make claims that they are great from a critical stand point - largely because I watch movies for fun and not to be critical. I won’t claim that they are great adaptations - heck, I haven’t read a single King writing yet. Regardless, there’s something about a dated movie about a giant monster bat mutant living in a basement as king of the rats that just strikes my interest on all the chords. Put on your totally irrelevant hard hats that aren’t worn at all in the movie about a monster in the textile mill, it’s time for Graveyard Shift.
I’m serious about that too - the cover doesn’t match the movie in the slightest bit. It’s a relatively imaginative setting, considering the bulk of it is all inside the textile mill. At first pass, you would think “oh boy, so much to offer” - much as you would think Dusk till Dawn didn’t have very far it could go. Then you get to the basement, then you get to the SUB basement, and from there who knows what ancient earth crevice they are in long forgotten by the minds of man. It’s like the Goonies, except with a lot more skeletons and a horrible mutant creature picking everyone off in the final act. They do a good job with placing the setting - everyone at any time during work looks like they are getting stuck in a super hot room and forced to do things, and in turn the people are constantly just wet in this movie. A few things are set up in the Chekhov manner, and yet some things are just left to the great mysticism of the universe. On the flip side of all those compliments, the amount of skeletons stacked up underground later on has me highly wondering how such a small town could ever not know something was amiss, as so many people would be missing it would be unbelievable. Between that and the huge gaping crevice in the destroyed cemetery just past the mill kind of gives one pause to wonder how this town is even still a thing.
For any of that to matter of course, there’s a story. I’ll be honest, it plays out a bit more like a Shyamalan movie before it was a thing, except slightly more obvious. The entire main level feels like some sort of period work drama - complete with sexual harassment, terrible work conditions, and workplace bullying. There’s a bit of a budding romance story in there as well, even perhaps a little intrigue on what kind of secrets might be floating about - but the giant beast killing people is pretty well spelled out. As the movie goes, you get more glimpses of it, but the question of why is never answered - this thing just exists down there. There’s no mention of crazy chemicals, of otherworldly creatures in legends, or any real setup of the creature outside of it’s periodic shadowy kill scenes. It’s somewhat double edged - on the one hand it spices up a movie that could have been a drama and helps turn it into a horror instead, but on the other it sets up some questions it never intends to answer and that could annoy people.
The actors do a decent job here, at least when it comes to the visual acting component. Some are very over-done, really just going at a scene for all it’s worth. Most are somewhat mediocre or otherwise doing a well enough job that it’s not a nuisance that they exist on screen. Every now and then someone pops on and it’s not so hot - but most of that comes up from the audio department. It’s not that the lines aren’t delivered great - sometimes they aren’t the best, but usually they are pretty decent. Some of the dialogue might be a bit forced, or seem to skip a bit, but it works fine for what the movie is - even when it’s hitting levels of wacky or inappropriate. When it comes down to it, most the time the characters are believable as characters if not as people, and until a split-second break at the end when a character takes a turn that makes it feel as though a side-character’s story was meant for the one I’m talking about, nobody really feels as though they do anything out of place.
No, the audio in question is some ADR that didn’t come out that great. Either a person is talking without their mouths moving, the actual quality and sound of the voice is different, or some other way it noticeably pulls you out for a second - whether like me for a laugh, or for the perceived common person cringing. The soundtrack doesn’t intrude a lot, with the occasional loud song being played on a radio, but largely it does a soundtracks role without going past that. Most the audio lines are balanced well, easily understood despite the strange ADR moments. Sound effects do a good job as well, occasionally being amped up in the case of mouse squeaks or impact, but largely it does a good job of adding to the scenes.
The effects department has some fun here - be it with the set or the beast. Some decent attention was placed on making everyone look like they are in an absurd amount of heat most the time - pretty much up until the final underground chaos. Everyone is sweating from everywhere, and when combined as a detail in the overall slightly dangerous and unkempt look of the workplace helps to ratchet up the desired effect. Rats often look quite wet in close up shots, although in long shots look much like any normal dry brigand invading a place they shouldn’t be. Violence, when on screen, is mostly all blood related, and can be varying levels of convincing. Other moments - such as body parts - look about as convincing as the normal modern Halloween props. Some moments can be a bit impressive in how brutal they are, but I’m not entirely sure how much of it is a play of the imagination, such as if one actually can see fingers flying off of a chomped on hand, or if its just some of the blood-effect flying off whilst the hand is being flailed about. By and large, however, violence isn’t that bad by the standards of today by any means. The beast itself looks interesting enough in the scenes that you see it, although perhaps not exactly the most convincing thing as far as “living beast” goes. Much like the actors, it is commonly wet, and some moments of it work far better than others, with a few being sort of dated but still passable for at least myself.
The pacing of the movie seems to be a bit odd, and although I’ve seen it before I can’t really remember it being otherwise but it seems strange nonetheless. With how it’s put together, one would think that there is an “accident” happening at this work place every day the movie takes place, but it feels like there should be time between them. It isn’t that nothing is happening for the viewer - it’s doing that normal blow by blow pacing for most movies with it’s ups and downs, mixing that human romance and interaction drama with the punch-note monster kills - but rather that it’s hard to entirely grasp the time flow in the movie itself for me. It doesn’t impact enjoyment, but is a point regardless. There is also a bit of an escalation in feel, where when the final underground act starts, it seems like it’s over almost as soon as it started. This is a very weird occurance, because it’s about twenty minutes long, and that makes it near a third the run time. Between hopping between the characters, some of the character escalating actions, and people getting picked off, or perhaps just due to the thrill factor it somehow just feels like it turns on the turbo boost when it really isn’t doing more than a jog.
Is it the best movie? No, not by any means. Is it the best King movie? Well, I’d be lying if I said yes. When it comes down to it though, I still really enjoy Graveyard Shift. It’s a bit of a doofy no-frills monster flick, and that’s plenty of times my jam. I can’t speak for authenticity of adaptation since I haven’t read it, and admit that most people would be better off going to a more polished King movie like The Shinning or the new version of It, but this slightly dated mutant bat feature hits the bar of not overstaying it’s welcome and keeping me content while watching it, despite it’s various problems that will and do crop up throughout. It also could cause some pain if you try to think too much about anything involved in it - like the total non-thing that is the existence of a giant man eating bat creature. It’s fun enough for a view I’d wager, and if you could stomach this or, dare I say, enjoy it as much as me then I could give you all manner a list of King movies that would really have you having a blast.