In this day of age, Internet misinformation is just something we expect. We’ve almost reached a point where if something lands in front of you on a website or social network the instinct is to disbelieve. That hasn’t always been the case. One of the very first Internet rumors to take hold on a mass scale was that Marilyn Manson was a child actor on the television show The Wonder Years. In that falsehood, Manson used to be the actor Josh Saiviano who played the character Paul Pfeiffer. The actor grew up, changed his name, and became an industrial icon. An extra special version of the Internet story was that Manson had ribs removed so he could give himself a blowjob.
These two Marilyn Manson stories spread like wildfire. Why is this relevant? It’s tiny touches like a security guard briefly mentioning this rumor that make Brea Grant’s 12 Hour Shift such a compelling film. Sure, it’s a period piece set in 1999, but it doesn’t bludgeon the audience with the fact. In a movie about a drug-addicted organ harvesting, nurse one does not expect subtlety.
In fact, most of the film is over-the-top comedic chaos unfolding over a single night at a small-town Arkansas hospital. Yet, somehow, it also manages to be a reflection on why someone would think it’s a good idea to feed patients bleach and take their organs. At what point does a person allow their morals to realign so they think “well, this person is going to die soon anyway, so I’ll help them along.”
Too heady? Don’t worry. The morality play is there if you look for it, but overall Grant’s film is a deliciously morbid and frenetic dark comedy. Angela Bettis and Chloe Farnworth are perfectly paired as estranged cousins with polar opposite personalities. Bettis, the organ stealing nurse Mandy, is jaded and practical while Farnsworth, her cousin and accomplice Regina, is care-free and unrepentantly homicidal. The relationship is instantly relatable to anyone who has that cousin. You know the one.
The film’s pacing struggles in the first act as it tries to set up the chess pieces. Once everything starts to go south and the dominos fall the early stumbles are forgivable and forgettable.
12 Hour Shift will go down well for fans of blood and guts, winding narratives, and despicable characters.