Review : Graveyard Shift (1990)

Graveyard Shift is a short story written by Stephen King and first published in a 1970’s issue of the Cavalier magazine. In 1978, it was included in King’s collection of short stories, Night Shift. The film adaptation, directed by Ralph S. Singleton, was released in 1990.

In an old textile mill infested by rats, a worker dies during his night shift, attacked by an unknown assailant. A drifter passing through town and looking for a job is hired to replace him. The sadistic mill owner gathers a crew of workers to clean the rat-infested basement to avoid permanent closure. While there, they find a tunnel which they believe will lead them to the rats’ nest. When they go down there, they find something entirely different and far scarier than rats.

The premise of the film would let you expect an entertaining creature feature but unfortunately, the result is a disappointing and frustrating experience. Let’s get the obvious out of the way : Graveyard Shift is among the bad films based on Stephen King’s work. Its main problem resides in its characters. While the main character, his love interest and most of all the exterminator played by Brad Dourif are interesting enough to keep you watching, the rest of the characters range from stupid to incoherent.

The one (and only) memorable aspect of Graveyard Shift is its setting. Once the characters go down inside the tunnels, you are greeted by a great set. This labyrinth of tunnels with rooms filled with skeletons creates a creepy atmosphere.

The creature captures the essence of the film : disappointing and poorly made. The giant rat/bat hybrid works in earlier scenes when we only get a glimpse at the creature and I actually really liked the scene where the shape of a victim is visible through the monster’s transparent wing. However, once the creature is fully revealed, it loses its appeal and the climax falls short.

I could write more about Graveyard Shift and list all its flaws such as the worker screaming every time he uses a hose (I genuinely wanted to kill him myself) or the mill boss’s actions which made no sense. But I think you already have a general idea of the quality of this film : while not the worst movie I have seen, it is still pretty bad.

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