Directed By: Anthony DiBlasi
Starring: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, J. LaRose
Tag line: "Fear the ones left behind"
Trivia: In The UK, this film was released as Paymon: The King of Hell
Take John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and replace the marauding gang members with a trio of Charles Manson-like apparitions, and you have 2014’s Last Shift, an uber-creepy ghost flick about a rookie cop whose first assignment may well be her last.
Officer Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy), the daughter of a career policeman who was killed in the line of duty, is ordered to stand guard at a soon-to-be-abandoned precinct. Left entirely on her own, Officer Loren makes her rounds through the desolate building, and passes the time reading her police manual, waiting patiently for 4 a.m. to roll around, at which point she’ll be relieved by her superior, Sergeant Cohen (Hank Stone). But what she thinks will be a peaceful assignment takes a turn for the worse when a vagrant (J. LaRose) breaks in and starts trashing the place. This proves to be the first in a series of terrifying events, all of which suggest that the spirits of cult leader John Michael Paymon (Joshua Mikel) and two of his followers, who hung themselves in their cell exactly one year earlier, have returned, and are laying claim to the precinct. Though frightened and confused, Officer Loren remains at her post, determined to do her duty. The question, of course, is how long will she hold out?
With loud bangs, creaky pipes, and locker doors that open by themselves, many of the early thrills in Last Shift may not look like much on paper, but put them inside an abandoned police precinct and they’re enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention. Each noise that Officer Loren sets out to investigate carries her deeper into the building, which, with its barren, sterilized appearance (save some random equipment scattered about), would be damn spooky even without the ghosts. In addition to its setting, Last Shift features a strong performance by Juliana Harkavy, as Officer Loren, the lone cop on the scene. Shifting back and forth (convincingly, I might add) between brave and frightened out of her mind, Harkavy carries a fair portion of the film on her shoulders, and does so quite well.
Once the malevolent spirits hit the scene, Last Shift kicks into high gear, and while I’m still not certain what I think of the twist at the end, I give it credit in that I honestly didn’t see it coming.
While a fair number of supernatural thrillers have hit the scene in the last five years, Last Shift still manages to distinguish itself, and proves to be one of the more entertaining entries in this already crowded sub-genre.