Nurse Mandy is a druggy mess with a nasty sideline in organ peddling and not the kind that goes on in the hospital church. We join her at the start of a 12-hour shift in a low-end Arkansas medical facility on the cusp of the Y2K weekend.
A kidney Mandy has ‘liberated’ to fund her addiction goes missing and she must pool resources with her corrupt cohorts to hold back an ever-rising tide of complications. With the police, pissed off organ traffickers, annoying relatives, salty superiors and a crazed cop killer on her case, there is nowhere to hide from the spiralling bedlam.
What begins as a mission to cover up her murderous harvesting, will end with a desperate fight for her own life.
Brea Grant’s outrageously entertaining black farce arrives in a surreal timeline that throws more light on its seriously dark premise than she was probably bargaining for. With medical workers around the world elevated to hero status by the current pandemic, to portray one as a junkie corpse robber carries more risk than she could possibly have imagined.
Though never made explicit, it makes total narrative sense that her narcotic abuse is partly due to the pressures of her job. Despite the films broadly jovial tone there are hints that a satirical agenda underpins its knockabout theatrics.
As 12 Hour Shift chucks up its astonishing array of pitfalls, it begins to feel like we have slipped into a parallel universe, where Scrubs was written by a crack-addled John Cleese and Connie Booth and mashed through a slasher horror synthesiser. That being said, it’s fabulous fun just watching the narrative bases becoming as loaded as our own nurse Mandy.
What saves Grant’s flick from terminal sub-plot overload is its relentless energy, shameless immorality and the fact it is frequently laugh out loud funny. This is a cast that understands that humbly coexisting under the shared auspice of comic timing is the key to the homogenous tone so vital in relatable comedy cinema.
Angela Bettis is low key diabolic as our pro-heroin anti-heroine, channelling enough world-weary pathos to make her character conflictingly likeable. Some of her most spirited interactions are with the equally unethical nurse Karen played by the charismatic Nikea Gamby-Turner. The fact we begin to root for this nefarious modern-day Burke and Hare is a testament to their craft and charm.
Chloe Farnworth lays down a killer, no fucks given, performance as Mandy’s cousin in crime Regina. Her demented and ditzy blonde liability bombshell is the kind of freewheeling role that Tarantino used to wet dream into reality during his creative zenith.
David Arquette’s slacker cop slayer gets the best line in the film, a cheeky Wizard of Oz gag, as he adopts the kind of persona you might imagine Nicolas Cage’s IRL drug dealer might rock on his days off.
A big horror flick aficionado herself, Grant crowbars in some juicy violence that often crosses the thin line of slapstick, aided and abetted by exemplary effects work and judicious editing. However, the film still feels less violent and seditious than it actually is, a curious reversal of orientation in this particular genre.
When the chaos carousel finally comes to rest, the subdued ending of Mandy’s 12 Hour Shift is surprisingly moving. It quietly encapsulates the films acerbic approach to social commentary before reaffirming its irresistible compulsion to flirt with the magnetism of sweet anarchy.
ARROW VIDEO SCREEN – 8.45 PM – FRIDAY 28TH AUGUST
Black Comedy, Horror Thriller | USA 2020 | 86 mins | Magnet releasing| US Theatres + on VOD October 2nd. | Dir. Brea Grant | With: Angela Bettis, David Arquette, Chloe Farnworth