Film Review: Night Shift; Singular location chiller proves a serviceable genre entry

Perhaps because we’re simply used to his New Girl persona, or that even in the realms of a horror setting he’s playing with a little uncertain levity, Lamorne Morris‘ presence in the opening moments of Night Shift suggest that The China Brothers (filmmaking duo Benjamin and Paul China) may be preparing their audience for a more humorous venture within the horror genre.

And though the brothers are indeed having a lot of fun with their singular location (a classic for horror – the isolated motel), Night Shift never veers into the comedy the opening alludes to.  Rather we’re treated to a slow burn creeper that centres itself around Gwen (Phoebe Tonkin), who arrives at the amusingly named All Tucked In motel to takeover from Morris’ Teddy to manage for the night.  It’s a cash-in-hand job – something that appeals to the nervous-appearing Gwen – and, according to Teddy, it’s a safe, easy task.

Gwen rightfully takes issue with her isolation, and should she need any protection Teddy suggests a nearby axe is her best bet, but he assures her that she won’t need it.  We all know Gwen will need it at some point as it doesn’t take long for things to start going bump in the night (though that could just be the rat and roach infestation) and for ghostly figures to make their presence known.  Under normal circumstances such terrifying happenings would drive a right-minded person away, but this is a horror movie after all, and Gwen starts to convince herself that perhaps she’s seeing things.  It also doesn’t help that a car seems to be following her, nor that Alice (Madison Hu), the seeming sole customer on the premises, isn’t witness to any of Gwen’s sightings.

The China Brothers’ script plays with the questioning of Gwen’s sanity throughout the swift 82 minute running time, which results in us as an audience finding the delight in certain narrative reveals.  At 82 minutes, some might criticise the film for it taking as long as it does to get to the real meat of its story, and certain scares do come across as a little too telegraphed, but Tonkin’s unwavering commitment and the uncertainty of what (or who) we can trust keeps the film from ever succumbing to its own ambition.

Whilst Night Shift doesn’t reinvent the genre wheel in any form it’s still a serviceable slice of a thriller that succeeds predominantly off its strong lead performance and an amusing climax that suggests if The China Brothers dip their toe into the genre again, lacing so with a comedic wink may prove a more winning formula.


Night Shift is now available on Digital and On Demand in the United States.  An Australian release is yet to be determined.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.