Nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) is involved in an organ-smuggling ring with her cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth), providing an easy pipeline for Nick (Mick Foley) and his associates to move these pieces on the black market for a price. By now, the women have their methods down to a science, but a transit error leaves Nick down a kidney and Regina in deep. Between Regina’s emergency, the codes on the hospital floor, and the presence of patients such as Jefferson (David Arquette) in her unit, how is Mandy going to make it through this shift without her cover being blown, much less her oath being broken?
When this film boasts itself as a black comedy, take that as a warning. The tone of this film, even with the off one-liner or the outright awkwardness in characters such as Regina, is dark, as one should expect from a film about the black market and healthcare. It’s not done in a mean, heartless manner, but there is a fair amount of shock factor in some of the moments and malice throughout. A small part of me wondered if this film would be unbearably bleak, but it managed to ride the line between abject horror and ha-ha horror.
Awkward as the character may have been, Chloe Farnworth’s role as Regina is as a catalyst for the plotline, while managing to be Schitt’s Creek leves of cringe-laugh-inducing. Her attempts to sell that she knows how to take care of her patients, particularly the dialysis patient, are some that will have viewers yelling at their screen through hand-covered mouths, whether those hands are covering a belly-laugh or holding in the shock.
While Regina is objectively the funniest single character, the humor in this film also comes through dramatic irony. The fact that Regina needs a kidney, so Mandy tries to get her one, but Mandy is impatient, and the guard watching after the convict Jefferson doesn’t know that Regina isn’t an actual nurse, to the hilarious Mrs. Patrick buying any line of BS she’s fed at this point makes for a feeling of “what the fuck is going on right now?” that compels rather than repels. Add to this the non-diegetic score, which doesn’t deviate much from that line of strings with occasional percussion underneath it, and there’s a consistent bewilderment to the events within the titular shift.
As much as I want to call this a horror film, much less a horror-comedy, giving someone that information and little else may set some up for disappointment. This isn’t a meta-horror like Scream, as some horror-comedies are, it’s not a gross-out film like a Cabin Fever. This taps more into the vein, pun completely intended, of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, in that its humor comes from the irony that is compounded by the domino effect. Is this going to turn off some diehard horror fans? Admittedly, maybe. Will its marketing be received with disgust or disinterest from non-horror fans? It might. But it’s a damn funny film, so if one can look beyond the genre labels for an hour and a half, they will find themselves highly entertained by this ensemble cast and the film’s grimly funny yarn.
12 Hour Shift is available now on VOD.