Saturday, October 31, 2020

Movie Reviews: Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift
directed by Ralph Singleton
This 1990 B-movie was based on another Stephen King short story of the same title which I first read in his excellent collection "Night Shift" though it was published earlier elsewhere. This tale was an example of something that worked well as a short story.
It could have worked as a 30 minute installment of an episodic tv show. But there just wasn't enough there to justify a ninety minute film. The screen story is unduly stretched out. It shows. Realizing that the original source material was sparse, the film adds in some themes of sexual harassment, though this is done to (a) make the protagonist and would be hero more well, heroic and (b) to show off mammary glands. I don't suppose I can argue with that.
The short story was laser focused on resentment that some blue collar workers might feel for someone who is college educated (apparently in his younger days King worked a fair number of jobs that did not require the college degree that he had/was in the process of acquiring). This film alters the emphasis so that the viewer is unsubtly directed to the class divide not of advanced education but that of owner/management vs worker. 
Warwick (Stephen Macht), the foreman of a struggling Maine textile mill doesn't give two s***s about worker health, safety, or general welfare. Warwick drives his workers hard. Warwick flirts with or exploits attractive female employees. Warwick thinks that the women can get with the program or they can find other jobs. 
And although Warwick doesn't sexually harass male employees, if anything he's more direct with them. Get out of line and get fired. And Warwick might throw them a beating on the way out. The mill has a serious rat problem. People don't like to work among vermin. Some of the rats are disturbingly large and frighten workers. 
Health inspectors have learned about the rats. The rats are damaging or destroying the mill's output. Much as he hates to do it, Warwick is obliged to spend some money to buy off inspectors and hire Tucker Cleveland (Brad Dourif), an unhinged pest control worker, to exterminate the vermin.
Warwick hired John Hall (David Andrews) as a new textile worker. Despite being the object of derision from co-workers for his good looks, quiet nature, and education, Hall doesn't have a problem standing up for himself or for Warwick's would-be latest conquest, Jane Wisconsky (Kelly Wolf). Warwick can't stand Hall's confidence. Obviously Warwick also doesn't like it that Jane prefers Hall in every way (including that one) to him.
When Cleveland disappears Warwick assigns his employees--including Hall-- to do the extermination themselves. But Hall calls him out in front of everyone. So Warwick accepts the challenge. Warwick leads his crew into the mill's basement and newly discovered subbasement where things become very strange.
The special effects look cheap. The scares don't really surprise or frighten. And I would be surprised if the viewer cared about any of the characters. Macht did not grow up in Maine but he did spend some formative years in New England. To someone like me who couldn't tell the difference among most New England accents apart from Baahstaan, his character's Maine accent was comic, over the top, and convincing all at the same time. Dourif is apparently acting in a completely different film.
blog comments powered by Disqus