Directed by: Brea Grant. Starring: Angela Bettis, Chloe Farnworth, David Arquette. Runtime: 1h 26 min. This film had its International Premiere on August 22, 2020 at the Fantasia Film Festival online.
Set in 1999 Arkansas, a junkie nurse, Mandy (Angela Bettis) starts a 12 Hour Shift at her hospital where, to get money for her addiction, she’s part of an organ harvesting scheme. When her irresponsible “cousin” Regina (Chloe Farnworth) forgets the organs, they have to try to get another kidney for their boss, and there are many suitable candidates inside the hospital.
12 Hour Shift has a slice-of-life, small-town Americana feel, and the film takes the “slice” in slice-of-life a bit literally. Brea Grant – who writes and directs – brings some of the funniest moments in observations, like one on a news channel as they talk about Arkansas and say, “if you don’t love the weather, just wait a minute.”
As well as the small-town Americana, Grant has placed this during the on-set of the American opioid epidemic. She brings that into the story in smart ways that develop Mandy, and she’s married this backdrop with organ harvesting. The set-up and premise are my favourite parts about this film, as it’s also set in mainly one location, that being the hospital.
It’s intriguing learning how their organ-snatching operation works as they’re like regular nurses who snatch your kidneys. Since they are snatching organs, none of these characters are exactly likable (Mandy really needs to work on her bedside manner), but Grant creates very distinct characters.
Mandy has sound motivation being involved in this to fund her addiction, and Angela Bettis is grounded as the killer nurse with not-so-decent intentions. The character tries to keep most situations relaxed – but that’s hard to do with Regina around. Chloe Farnworth is totally kooky as Regina, playing a redneck version of Harley Quinn and I had fun with her character because Farnworth totally sells it.
She makes things go bad to worse just trying to help out. I didn’t think these situations were always that great, though there are some well-directed scenes, especially when nurse Dorothy (Tara Perry) breaks out into song in the hospital church as Mandy and Regina individually find suitors for organs. That is the highlight of the film for me, as well as some tension that is brought about directly after this sequence.
I didn’t always click with 12 Hour Shift, though, as the film’s partly marketed as a horror while it’s not scary and is much more a black comedy. It inches towards horror in the third act, but it’s always grounded in thriller. Grant’s direction is totally solid here and I liked some of the humour, but I think more could have been done with this premise.
For example, David Arquette as Jefferson, a convict being held at the hospital, is criminally underused. Arquette’s a producer on the film but if you take his character out entirely, only some minor stakes would be lost in the hectic finale. Grant knows how to use the U.S. opioid epidemic to her advantage in the film; but doesn’t fully utilize the prisoner chained to the bed, which is disappointing because Jefferson could be so interesting.