by Patrick Bromley
12 Hour Shift, written and directed by indie horror mainstay Brea Grant, is a dark comedy in the best Coen Brothers tradition. It sets up a bunch of colorful characters, some smarter than others, then puts them in seemingly impossible and often bloody situations that just get progressively worse until it seems like the only way out is more violence. It's twisted and it's tense and it's funny and it's my favorite movie of Fantasia Fest 2020 so far.
Funny and twisted with a healthy dose of irony, 12 Hour Shift understands black comedy in a way that many other recent attempts haven't -- for proof, look no further than the "Wise Up" inspired musical number that accompanies scenes of organs being cut out of bodies. Most of the characters in 12 Hour Shift are terrible people, and the ones who are supposedly "good" are bad in different ways (except for Derrick the dancing EMT; he is pure light and rainbows). That doesn't make them unworthy of our emotional investment, as both Grant's screenplay and Bettis' performance ensure that we care about what happens to Mandy, even if she is a fuckup. As an addict, she's not necessarily responsible for all of her choices -- though she's still responsible for plenty of them, particularly those involving murder. Bettis, so known to horror fans for playing misfits and weirdos (May, Carrie White, Sick Girl), gets to play one of the most "normal" characters she's played in years -- she's the black heart at the center of a body that's rotten. I love the whole cast of characters Grant and the actors create, all expertly established before the shit really starts piling up and everyone must react according to their natures. It's how drama is supposed to work but so rarely does this well.