Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift (1990) - IMDb

I had never seen Graveyard Shift before. I had caught the very end of the movie at some point in the late 90s on Sci Fi channel, or well I thought I had because the ending I remember is kind of different than the one I saw. I’ve not read the short story that it was based on. It was in the collection of short stories called Night Shift and I’ve not read that many of King’s short story collections. I don’t really hear much talk about it, which is a shame because I think it deserves more credit.

Graveyard Shift was directed by Ralph S. Singleton. It was written by John Esposito and was based on the short story of the same name by Stephen King. It starred David Andrews, Kelly Wolf, Stephen Macht, Brad Dourif, and Andrew Divoff. Ralph S. Singleton hasn’t directed anything since this, which is a shame because this was a really good movie. This was the first thing that I saw David Andrews in where he played a lead role. Stephen Macht’s role is very different than the role that I first saw him in. It was weird for me to see the dad from The Monster Squad being not only an asshole but like asshole supreme. Andrew Divoff was a surprise as he wasn’t playing an overtly evil character, just a small town bully. I really want to talk about Brad Bourif’s performance. It’s actually fairly subdued for the most part. When he does his monologue about rats and the Vietnam War there’s something about the way he’s speaking. In the wider shots from his monologue there’s a tear that has run down his left cheek as if he’s remembering traumatic experiences.

Graveyard Shift is set in a textile mill. You see John Hall as he gets to town on a Greyhound bus. He gets a job at the mill running the cotton picker. The mill is over run by rats. An exterminator is hired to get rid of the rats. A group of workers are hired to work over the July 4th shut down of the mill to clean up the basement. The group starts to be killed by the mutated rat/bat thing. The mill foreman, Warwick, quickly loses his mind and decides that everything was Hall’s fault. Hall ends up being the only survivor and kills the giant mutant thing with the cotton picker. I’ve left the plot really vague just in case you haven’t watched it. I want you to see it if you haven’t already.

The production design kicks ass in Graveyard Shift. Every place has a distinct feel, the most distinct is the mill. That’s definitely true when the cleanup starts and when they go underground. The effects hold up really well, especially for a movie that’s over thirty years old. The giant mutant rat/bat thing looks so goddamn nasty that you really don’t want any of the characters to touch it. The matte painting looks great, even now.

Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift is definitely worth a watch. I would say that goes doubly so if you’re a fan of King’s work. It’s currently streaming on Hulu.

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