In 2002, Angela Bettis starred in a very disturbing horror movie called May. She delivered one of the best horror performances of the modern era. The actress, who has worked steadily since then, gets another career highlight in 12 Hour Shift. Written and directed by Brea Grant, this horror/dark comedy puts Bettis front and center in a role that allows her to show multiple sides of her talent. Mandy, the character she portrays, is amoral, but we end up caring about her anyway.
As we meet her, Mandy is set to pull a double shift at the hospital where she works. Snorting drugs in the parking lot beforehand helps her find the energy. There's more on the schedule than helping people, though. She has a side business selling organs on the black market. After removing them from terminal patients, Mandy gives them to her airhead cousin-by-marriage Regina (Chloe Farnworth) out back. Regina then delivers them to trafficker Nicholas (Mick Foley). Things do not go so well on this particular night, as Regina misplaces a kidney Nicholas has a buyer set for, and he sends one of his goons to the hospital in response. Mandy suddenly has to find a way of quickly obtaining another one, while Regina poses as a nurse to avoid detection.
12 Hour Shift creates humor by taking very gruesome ideas and playing them with a hint of exaggeration, so they become absurd rather than offensive. For example, Mandy has a couple potential victims from whom she could steal a kidney. One is her brother, who it's inferred molested her when they were kids. Another is a violent criminal (David Arquette) brought in by the cops. Who would miss a scumbag like that? Her process of having to debate such things is twisted and funny. Other times, the comedy comes from Mandy slipping on the copious amounts of blood that are spilled or, in one wild scene, attempting to maneuver a corpse that has fallen to the floor in the morgue.
Bettis is terrific playing the frustration Mandy feels toward Regina, who's as bright as a candle that's about to flicker out. Because she's responsible for obtaining the organ, her safety is put at risk by her cousin's sheer ineptitude. Those two characters have some hilarious bickering as a result. Through it all, we empathize with Mandy, even as she does pretty heinous stuff. That's because Bettis delivers sarcastic dialogue with such charm that we can't resist her. She also effectively conveys the panic Mandy feels knowing that this blown transaction could cause her whole life to fall apart.
12 Hour Shift delivers on horror/thriller elements, as well. It's not really a film that tries to scare you so much as show you unpleasant, uncomfortable events. Stealing organs from people is certainly a hideous thought, one that lies at the center of everything that transpires. You'll also witness some grisly deaths on occasion. Grant stacks macabre situations on top of each other to create a wild journey through a criminal enterprise.
Holding down the center is Angela Bettis, in a turn that's sharp and deviously funny. Even if you'd never want Mandy taking care of you in the hospital, spending eighty-six minutes watching her adventure is a pleasure.
out of four
12 Hour Shift is unrated, but contains for bloody violence and adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.