Night Shift (2024) film still
, ,
82 min.
Release Date
Night Shift (2024) film poster

Night Shift is an independent thriller made for a reported $500,000 during the pandemic. That description should begin to set expectations about the scope and reach of what the ensuing 82 minutes have to offer. However, having few resources can be an asset instead of a limitation. Written and directed by the China Brothers, Paul and Benjamin, the modest production—their second feature after 2011’s Crawl—demonstrates how creative filmmakers can do more with less if they have a memorable hook. Shot in Los Angeles at a single location, a rundown motel, the movie makes the most of its small, talented cast and effective scenario. It brings to mind this year’s The Last Stop in Yuma County, only on an even lower scale and with a lesser-known cast. But the same amount of ingenuity applies, where budgetary limitation is the mother of invention. The China Brothers thrive despite their obstructions, delivering an involving experience that flourishes because of its capable execution, solid cast, and pulpy material. 

Phoebe Tonkin plays Gwen, a young woman who takes an overnight job managing a seedy motel in the middle of nowhere, run by Teddy (Lamorne Morris). She ignores the usual warning signs—isolated location, rats, no security, mysterious guests—because she’s desperate. Before we can ask why, she learns of the motel’s haunted past from a kindly guest (Madison Hu). That might explain Gwen seeing strange apparitions, from creepy silhouettes to white-eyed ghosts. Add to this a messed-up elitist couple (Patrick Fischler, Lauren Bowles) straight out of a David Lynch film, a creepy loner (Christopher Denham), and the generally gross environs by production designer Susannah Honey, and the mood proves unnerving. If the narrative goes where one might predict, the presentation is confident and engrossing—especially the assured cinematography by Mac Fisken and lean editing by Bec China (wife of Paul). 

Playing like an episode of Tales from the Crypt or American Horror Stories, the material feels like a short story and quickly evaporates from the brain. But it’s a diverting late-night watch that kept me engaged for its brief runtime and produced a few jolts. The China Brothers reveal themselves to be a team capable of exploiting a situation for everything it’s worth, even if one might yearn for more substance or character development. It’s easy to recommend for viewers who enjoyed James Mangold’s similarly themed Identity from 2003, where an array of familiar character types find themselves stranded at a crummy motel, only to be stalked and killed one by one. Night Shift isn’t so gory, and perhaps a better comparison is the low-key hangout chiller of Ti West’s The Innkeepers (2011). The movie relies on an unnerving atmosphere that’s punctuated by a shocker ending, and it delivers on those terms splendidly. 

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