John Hall is a widowed drifter, who arrives at a small town and is hired to work in a rat-infested textile mill. Despite an eccentric exterminator having been hired, Tucker Cleveland, the rat problem persists. Hardy little buggers, indeed. When the exterminator admits defeat and tells the cruel and thick-headed foreman Warwick that he is unable to kill all the rats and recommends that the mill should be shut down, work still continue at the place as normal anyway of course. But people start going missing. Did they just pack up and leave, forgetting their letters of resignation and simply high-tailing out of the place…or is something else lurking at the mill, other than the rats?
Graveyard Shift is a Stephen King adaptation based on a story from Night Shift. The movie was directed by Ralph S. Singleton, and filmed in the village of Harmony, Maine at Bartlettyarns Inc which is the oldest woolen yarn mill in the US. Now, as with most Stephen King movie adaptations, it’s not exactly a masterpiece, and Stephen King heavily disliked it and stated that it’s one of his least favorite adaptations, calling it “a quick exploitation picture“. A comment which might drive away everyone looking for “quality”, but also pique the interest of horror ghouls who sometimes want to feast on a quick exploitation meal. So, how does Graveyard Shift fare in that regard?
Let’s start with the negatives first. It does seem that the low budget killed off some of the potential this movie could have had, as the monster scenes are never on full display. Every character is a stereotypical archetype and you’ll probably find more interesting personalities in the dozens of rats on the screen, which you’ll end up rooting more for than the actual “heroes” here. Andrew Divoff “Wishmaster” has a little role here but he’s nothing more than a simple stock character whose main purpose is to become monster nourishment. The pacing is sometimes a bit odd, focusing on some character love drama in between which doesn’t really bring anything forward.
Now for the positives: while it should be obvious that it does not have the same wacky entertainment value like for example The Mangler (which is also based on one of the short stories from Night Shift), it does actually have a bit of atmosphere, with the old mill area and underground surroundings making a claustrophobic setting. There’s a little bit of gore, and the monster doesn’t look that bad the few sparse moments you actually get to see it. The characters, while being stereotypical to the point of being slightly ridiculous, adds some enjoyment into it and steer the movie away from being too boring. There’s some scenery and props that heightens the entertainment value as well, and if it had just been spruced up a bit with some extra gore and additional monster screentime, the end result could have been much better.
I’d say that, all in all, Graveyard Shift is an okay 90s creature feature for horror ghouls. A totally silly horror flick with nothing memorable or great, but a fun enough thing watch if you want to waste an hour and a half.
Director: Ralph S. Singleton
Writers: Stephen King, John Esposito
Country & year: USA, 1990
Actors: David Andrews, Kelly Wolf, Stephen Macht, Andrew Divoff, Vic Polizos, Brad Dourif