Review: ’12 Hour Shift,’ starring Angela Bettis, Chloe Farnworth, Nikea Gamby-Turner, David Arquette, Kit Williamson and Mick Foley

September 28, 2020

by Carla Hay

Angela Bettis in “12 Hour Shift” (Photo by Matt Glass/Magnet Releasing)

“12 Hour Shift”

Directed by Brea Grant

Culture Representation: Taking place in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in 1999, the horror comedy “12 Hour Shift” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A drug-addicted hospital nurse, who illegally sells organs to make extra money, has crazy and horrible experiences during a 12-hour shift.

Culture Audience: “12 Hour Shift” will appeal primarily to people who like horror served up with a lot of dark and absurdist comedy.

Chloe Farnworth in “12 Hour Shift” (Photo by Matt Glass/Magnet Releasing)

What do you get when you cross a drug-addicted nurse with a cop killer, some thugs, a stolen kidney and wacky patients during a very long work day that stretches into the night? You get “12 Hour Shift,” an apologetically bloody and bawdy horror comedy that is not for people who are easily nauseated or for people who want a serious horror film. Written and directed by Brea Grant, “12 Hour Shift” is as rough around the edges as the story’s main character, but if you’re up for the bumpy ride, be prepared for an offbeat look at the type of hospital that could be a patient’s worst nightmare.

In “12 Hour Shift,” which takes place in 1999, the action centers around Mandy (played by Angela Bettis), a hospital nurse in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Mandy has a prickly personality and a serious addiction to prescription drugs. She’s the kind of addict who doesn’t hesitate to steal prescription medication from a patient who’s unconscious.

At the beginning of the story, Mandy is seen smoking in a parking lot before she begins what will turn out to be the 12-hour shift from hell. It’s clear from her interactions with a co-worker in the parking lot that Mandy isn’t concerned about being a well-liked employee. When she goes inside the hospital, she snorts chopped-up pills in a storage room before she begins a double shift.

Mandy doesn’t just make money from the salary she gets from the hospital. To make extra money (presumably to support her drug habit), Mandy has been involved in some illegal transactions: She’s been selling the organs of dead patients who are in the hospital’s mortuary.

The hospital is understaffed, so viewers have to assume that Mandy has the time and the ability to remove people’s organs without anyone else noticing. Viewers will have to ignore a huge plot hole that’s not explained in the movie: What about the bodies that have to go to a medical examiner to determine the cause of death? That would expose a pattern of organs going missing from bodies at the hospital, which would trigger an investigation.

At any rate, “12 Hour Shift” is a dark comedy that’s not entirely rooted in realism. If people know before seeing this movie that the story takes some situations to extreme and absurd levels, they will enjoy the movie better. People who want a more straightforward, conventional horror movie should look elsewhere

During this particular 12-hour work shift, Mandy is doing her usual routine of handing off the bags of stolen organs (which include intestines and a kidney) in a small cooler container that she leaves near the hospital’s back entrance. Her accomplice is ditzy Regina (played by Chloe Farnworth), who is Mandy’s cousin by marriage. Regina gives Mandy the payment in cash, and Mandy goes back into the hospital.

However, Regina makes a big mistake when she takes the cooler with her but accidentally leaves behind a bag of organs at the back entrance. When Regina meets with a low-life thug named Nicholas (played by Mick Foley), she notices that a bag is missing. Nicholas is incensed because in that bag is a kidney that he needs right now.

When Regina frantically returns to the hospital’s back entrance, the bag that she left behind is gone. Regina goes to Mandy to tell her the bad news about the missing kidney. Mandy is furious, of course, because she knows that she could be in a lot of trouble since she was already paid for the kidney and she doesn’t want to give any of the money back. And so begins the zany quest for Mandy and Regina to find another kidney before Nicholas and his fellow thugs come looking for them to do who knows what if they don’t get a kidney for him.

There’s someone else who’s in on the organ sales schemes: Mandy’s no-nonsense co-worker Karen (played by Nikea Gamby-Turner), who gets her share of whatever cash that Mandy gets for the sales. Karen usually acts as the lookout while Mandy does the dirty work of removing the organs. And now that there’s a race against time to find another kidney, things are going to get pretty desperate.

But wouldn’t you know, this is the one shift where Mandy has to deal with some other intense situations, since she works in the emergency-room ward. A drug-overdose patient comes into the hospital. His name is Andrew (played by Aaron Preusch), and Mandy has a past with him that she’d like to forget.

An admitted cop killer named Jefferson (played by David Arquette) is brought to the hospital under police custody, and he becomes a pest because he tries to make moves on the hospital’s female staffers. Jefferson says, “I murdered a cop. I hate cops, but I love blondes.” Meanwhile, clueless Regina is enlisted to help find a dying patient from whom Mandy could steal a kidney. And it should come as no surprise that Regina (who shows up in a hospital uniform and high heels) makes a disastrous decision.

Meanwhile, there’s a running gag of a hypochondriac named Mr. Kent (played by Tom DeTrinis) who keeps showing up at the hospital to insist that he get a room, even though there’s nothing physically wrong with him. There’s an emergency medical technician named Derrick (played by Thomas Hobson), who might or might not be able to help Mandy. And there’s a weepy nurse at the hospital named Dorothy (played by Tara Peary), who asks, “Is there any more cake?,” as if her her day would be ruined if there’s no more cake in the employee break room.

The violence in the movie can get very gruesome, but some of it is so over-the-top, it’s not meant to be taken seriously. Arquette (who is one of the film’s producers) seems to know that his goofy public persona doesn’t make him entirely convincing when he’s supposed to play a dangerous criminal, so he hams it up quite a bit in this movie. Farnworth’s Regina is playing a stereotypical airhead, so there really isn’t supposed to be much depth to this role.

It’s Bettis’ portrayal as the hard-nosed Mandy that’s the performance to watch. Mandy might be facing a lot of trouble for her illegal antics, and some dangerous thugs might come after her, but Mandy’s got this tough “I don’t care/Just give me my money and drugs” demeanor that indicates she not to be messed with easily. There’s really no deep message in the mayhem and chaos that ensue in “12 Hour Shift.” In its darkly comedic way, the movie will make you think twice about what could happen if you’re unconscious in a hospital and a drug-addicted nurse wants to steal your medication or maybe one of your organs.

Magnolia Pictures’ Magnet Releasing will release “12 Hour Shift” in select U.S. theaters and on VOD on October 2, 2020.

Review: ‘The Stylist,’ starring Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Millie Milan, Sarah McGuire and Davis DeRock

September 27, 2020

by Carla Hay

Najarra Townsend in “The Stylist” (Photo courtesy of Method Media/Sixx Tape Productions)

“The Stylist”

Directed by Jill Gevargizian

Culture Representation: Taking place in Kansas City, Missouri, the horror film “The Stylist” features a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A lonely hairstylist has a secret life of a serial killer who collects the scalps of her female victims. 

Culture Audience: “The Stylist” will appeal primarily to people who like gripping psychological thrillers with stylish, 1970s-inspired noir aesthetics.

Brea Grant and Najarra Townsend in “The Stylist” (Photo courtesy of Method Media/Sixx Tape Productions)

“The Stylist” takes some of the best elements of 1970s noir horror movies and serves them up in a more modern setting while also appearing to be somewhat timeless. The movie is a tension-filled journey into the disturbed mind of a serial killer who is deceptively mild-mannered to the outside world. Anchored by an effectively chilling performance by Najarra Townsend, “The Stylist” (which was filmed on location in Kansas City, Missouri) is an impressive feature-film debut by writer/director Jill Gevargizian, who brings an almost hypnotic quality to this memorable horror film. “The Stylist” feature film, which had its world premiere at the 2020 edition Fantastic Fest, is adapted from Gevargizian’s short film of the same title.

On the surface, hair stylist Claire (played by Townsend) seems to be an introverted person who can do wonders with people’s hair. She has a loyal base of clients and she is very accommodating and helpful to all of her customers. Claire is also a very lonely person, since she doesn’t have much of social life outside of her job at a small, somewhat bohemian-styled hair salon. She lives alone and only has a her female Chihuahua named Pepper to keep her company.

In the beginning of the movie, Claire meets a new customer who is visiting Kansas City on a business trip and has come into the salon for an evening appointment. The customer’s name is Sarah (played by Jennifer Seward), and an attentive Claire finds out what kind of hair service that Sarah wants. Sarah accepts Claire’s offer to have a glass of wine while Claire styles Sarah’s hair.

Claire and Sarah make small talk, but it isn’t long before Sarah opens up about her life, as people often do when they talk to a hair stylist. Sarah is married and has a 12-year-old son. But Sarah admits that she isn’t very happy in her marriage and that while she’s on this business trip, Sarah has been cheating on her husband with a “boy toy” whom she says she’ll probably never see again.

“I’m only human,” Sarah says as an excuse for her infidelity. Why is Sarah telling Claire this intimate secret? Because, as Sarah explains, she’ll probably never see Claire again either. It’s the kind of realistic dialogue that makes the people believable in “The Stylist” screenplay, which was written by Gevargizian, Eric Havens and Eric Stolze.

Sarah and Claire end up being the last people in the salon as it closes for the night. And then, Claire’s true nature comes out. The glass of wine that Sarah was drinking had been spiked by Claire. Whatever drug was in that wine has now kicked in and Sarah has passed out. Claire then takes a knife and removes Sarah’s scalp. The scalping is shown and heard in all of its gruesome details.

The movie doesn’t show what Claire does with Sarah’s body, because it does show what Claire has done with the scalp when Claire is at home. In a candle-lit room filled with a giant mirror, Claire wears the scalp and mimics the conversation that she had with Sarah, almost as if she’s reliving it but also playing the role of Sarah. It soon becomes clear that more than just wanting killing Sarah and taking her scalp, Claire also wants some piece of this woman’s life, however fleeting that feeling might be.

The rest of the movie show’s Claire going on a killing spree where she collects her female victims’ scalps. She’s careful enough to hide the bodies so that it’s a mystery over whether or not the women are missing or dead. And she does quite a bit of stalking of potential victims while having various private meltdowns in her home and in her car.

Claire is able to maintain a façade that everything is normal in her life. However, viewers might notice that she has some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder, because it bothers her to do anything out of her routine. When she waits in line at her favorite coffee shop the day after she killed Sarah, Claire notices that there’s a speck of Sarah’s blood on one of Claire’s shoes.

The speck is only something Sarah can see, but the sight of it bothers her so much that she becomes agitated while she’s waiting in line and tries to use her other foot to scrape off the blood. The behind-the-counter barista named Dawn (played by Sarah McGuire) notices that something is bothering Claire, who tries to act like she’s just having a bad day. Another sign of her obsessive compulsiveness: The barista knows exactly what Claire is going to order, because she orders the same thing every time she’s in the coffee ship.

One of the things outside of Claire’s comfort zone is being a hairstylist at a wedding. She’s refused requests in the past to take wedding jobs. However, one of Claire’s loyal clients named Olivia (played by Brea Grant), who is an editor at a fashion magazine, has been begging Claire to be the hair stylist for Olivia’s wedding because another stylist bailed out of the job on short notice. Claire finally relents and agrees to Olivia’s hairstylist for the wedding.

The wedding and the preparations leading up to it set off a catalyst of events and emotions that have deadly consequences, as Sarah starts to become obsessed with being Olivia’s best friend. Claire’s need to be Olivia’s closest confidante is triggered when Olivia invites Claire to Olivia’s home to see Olivia in her wedding dress. The two women are alone together, and they both start talking about their families and their backgrounds.

Olivia and Claire both find out that they grew up without a father. Although Olivia’s mother is still alive and will be at the wedding, Claire’s mother died when she was 17. Claire says that he mother was only 35 and very drunk when she died, hinting that her childhood was probably unhappy because her mother had a drinking problem.

Claire also says that he mother was a hairstylist who would change her hairstyle every few months. “I never knew who was going to come home,” Claire says of her mother’s changing image. Meanwhile, Olivia opens up about her own troubled past, by telling Claire that she used to be a wild child and never thought she would end up getting married.

And what does Claire’s sudden interest in being close to Olivia mean for Olivia’s fiancé Charlie (played by Davis Derock)? He becomes an unwitting target of Claire’s disdain if he does anything that would Claire thinks is disrespectful to Olivia. Claire is the type to hold grudges.

Claire is also jealous of the bridesmaids who are in Olivia’s wedding party, including Olivia’s catty co-worker Monique (played by Millie Milan), who had recommended the hairstylist was who originally hired for the wedding. There’s a pivotal bachelorette party scene that is very well-acted, because it shows the first time that Claire is introduced to the women who are in Olivia’s inner circle.

All of the scenes in “The Stylist” have good acting, but the movie has added appeal because of its cinematography by Robert Patrick Stern. Colors are muted but spooky, as if to reflect the quietness of Claire and also the evil darkness that she has within her. And Claire is sometimes filmed from angles below and from the side that give the perspective of an observer who might know all of her secrets.

The way that Claire dresses (knee-high socks, velvet jackets in autumn colors) and wears her makeup (with a cat eyeliner look) evokes the aura of femme fatales of early 1970s horror movies, such as “Daughters of the Darkness” and “The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.” “The Stylist’s” musical score (by Nicholas Elert) has a similarly retro vibe to it. The “shabby chic” production design by Sarah Sharp is also perfect for this movie, since many of the characters in the film look like the type of people who hunt for fashionably vintage items for home decorations and to give as gifts.

Although there’s a lot of familiarity to this serial killer story, what stands out about “The Stylist” is that some of the characters that you would think would be killed end up not getting killed, while other characters have surprise murders. (Writer/director Gervargizian has a cameo as one of Claire’s murder victims.)

Claire comes across to many people as meek and unassuming, but her disturbed mental state comes out when she’s alone and babbling to herself. Townsend convincingly handles these scenes in a way that doesn’t become a laughable parody of mental illness. She brings a certain authentic humanity to the role that might make some viewers feel a little bit of sympathy for Claire. Gervargizian, who’s been a hair stylist in real life, also vividly captures the disarming comfort that comes from being in the care of a hair stylist, such as the close-ups of hair getting transformed in the hands of professionals and the feeling of elation that customers have when they like the results of what’s been done to their hair.

“The Stylist” is not a fast-paced movie but it’s not dragged down by dullness either. Under the skillful direction of Gevargizian, the movie takes a dark and harrowing look at what it must be like for a serial killer to lead a double life and hide in plain sight. In between the murder and the mayhem is a person who goes about a seemingly mundane and routine life. In its own disquieting way, “The Stylist” exposes that a serial killer who has a veneer of “normality” can be much more terrifying than an obvious, out-of-control psycho.

UPDATE: Arrow Video will release “The Stylist” for streaming on its website in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom on March 1, 2021. The movie’s VOD, digital and Blu-ray release date will be on June 8, 2021.

Copyright 2017-2023 Culture Mix