31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #8 – Last Shift (2014)

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Tagline: All Hail the King of Hell

Director: Anthony DiBlasi

Writer(s): Anthony DiBlasi & Scott Poiley

Studio: Magnet Releasing

Budget: Unknown

Box Office: Unknown

Release Date: 6th October, 2015

IMDb Rating: 5.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (Users Only)

UK Blu Ray release? No, just DVD

Cast

Juliana Harkavy – Jessica Loren

Joshua Mikel – John Michael Paymon

Hank Stone – Grip Cohen

J. LaRose – Patrick Black

Sarah Sculco – Kitty Paymon

Kathryn Kilger – Dorthea Paymon

Natalie Victoria – Marigold

Trailer

Plot According to Amazon: Rookie police officer Jessica Loren has been assigned the last shift at a closing police station and must wait for a hazmat crew to collect biomedical evidence. Ordered not to leave the station under any circumstance, Jessica comes to learn that its more than just an outdated station; it’s home to the ultimate embodiment of evil and his devoted blood-thirsty followers. Jessica is left to fend for herself in the Devil’s playground.

Inertia’s Insight: You can often take a gamble with horror. Aside from the commercially successful and/or critically lauded must-see films, there are a slew of straight-to-DVD, video-on-demand horrors that could line up longer than Trump’s intended wall. Scroll through Netflix or Amazon Prime and there will be a cascade of questionable titles that appear to have had more effort put into the design of their cover than the film itself. It’s a gamble. You read the description and give the trailer five minutes to buffer, then you roll the dice. You wonder if it’s going to last five minutes or whether your frustration at the stock characters and badly constructed ‘scares’ will see you reaching for a classic. But sometimes, once in a Landis moon, you find yourself gripped with a smart, effective horror that becomes your new hidden gem.

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With that, I give you Last Shift. Finding myself at the familiar crossroads pictured above, I rolled the dice on Last Shift one late September night last year on Amazon Prime. Not knowing much about the director, I was impressed enough by the trailer to give it a shot. It became one of my top 10 horror films of 2015.

Director Anthony DiBlasi is no stranger to the world of horror film, but is a stranger to most of us. What I love the most about finding a new film is delving into the director’s back catalogue and seeing that they have more to explore. With Last Shift, DiBlasi has cemented himself as a director to look out for in the world of horror.

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Rookie cop Jessica Loren, following in the footsteps of her late Father, is working her first shift on the last shift of an old police station. Emptied of the majority of its contents, she is tasked with waiting for a hazmat crew to arrive to remove biomedical evidence. After a tense first encounter with her Deputy, she is left alone in the bright, soulless police station, researching the police handbook and trying to tell herself that this is the right move.

The police station is famous for the arrest and subsequent death of the Manson-esque John Michael Paymon, a sadistic killer who led a cult of brainwashed followers who committed murder and various other heinous crimes in the belief they were carrying out “the Lord’s” work – just not the Lord we all know. It was believed that Paymon and his followers were killed at their residence, but Jessica soon discovers that Paymon and two of his equally named devotees committed suicide in the very police station she now protects. As the night draws on, suspicious sounds and movements draw Jessica’s attention, and a panicked phone call to the station when all emergency calls are supposed to have been diverted pits Jessica against the ruthless cult of John Michael Paymon, the King of Hell…

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To say anymore would ruin the film – it is a true horror gem that needs to be enjoyed. Lights off, sound up, no distractions. DiBlasi stated that he wanted to make a small contained film that was heavy on atmosphere and sound design, and with that he delivers. The sound work is near perfection, doing more to make your nipples rise than the equally disturbing imagery. Seeing the film solely from the perspective of Jessica embeds the audience with a character you instantly warm to and could stick with the whole night, but the added impact is the questionable nature of what she’s seeing: is it real, or is it a figment of her imagination? Has cabin fever set in, or has the King of Hell risen on the anniversary of his death?

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The cult’s song, eerily sang by a group of child-like women, will stick with you long after you’ve finished this film. The haunting tone and promising lyrics are a complete contrast to the macabre mayhem that Paymon revels in. The whole idea of cults and Jim Jones-esque power has been rife in fiction recently, with flicks such as The Sacrament and The Veil, as well as Adam Nevill’s impeccable novel Last Days. The theme and the notion terrifies me; horror is beautifully morbid when it is concentrated on the notion that evil is bore solely of man and here, you can really feel the evil of Paymon. What he transcends to takes this film from midnight found-a-flick to a horror classic that everyone needs to see.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • The film was originally going to be called Paymon: King of Hell
  • DiBlasi drew influence from Assault On Precinct 13 (1976), A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) and Manson (1973).
  • The letters in the ceiling spell ‘SOW’, which means female pig. Police officers are often referred to as pigs, and there are references to a pig farm in the film.

Quotes

PAYMON’S FOLLOWERS (Singing): From the kingdom of our Father, the truth will be free/through the mountains I’ll be guided, until I do see/I am safe in the arms of my master, my king/On the last day I will follow, my soul I will bring.

JOHN MICHAEL PAYMON: I am the dancing flame.

All images courtesy of Magnet Releasing


Tomorrow: Night #9 – The Evil Dead (1981)

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