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Case Number 01904

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Graveyard Shift

Paramount // 1990 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 24th, 2002

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All Rise...

The Charge

"At Bachman we're just one big happy family."
"Yeah, the Manson family."

Opening Statement

What happens to our puny lives when we reach the day where every Stephen King story, book, and screenplay has been adapted to the screen? Is that when time and space as we know it cease to exist? Well, I wouldn't fret quite yet, as I think we're a long way from seeing the end of King-adapted movies (even though about a billion of them have already been produced). In 1990, Ralph S. Singleton (producer for Pet Sematary and Pet Sematary II ) made his theatrical directing debut with Graveyard Shift, based on the short story by King from his "Night Shift" collection. An initial flop upon its release, Graveyard Shift has been resurrected on DVD by Paramount in a first ever widescreen edition that will have fans screaming for more!

Facts of the Case

Welcome to Gates Falls, Maine, where the population is dropping rapidly and the murder rate is skyrocketing! [Editor's Note: Note to self: never visit Maine. Too many weird things happen there.] After an abandoned textile mill is reopened, many of the workers meet mysterious and gruesome deaths. When drifter John Hall (David Andrews, Apollo 13) breezes into town, he signs up with the mill foreman Mr. Warwick (a thickly accented Stephen Macht, The Monster Squad) to work the picker machine between 11PM and 7AM—the graveyard shift. When Warwick chooses a group of workers to help clean up the rat infested basement (which hasn't been touched since "Christ was a kid," Warwick notes), Hall agrees in exchange for double time pay. With a rag tag group of clean-up workers (including Andrew Divoff, Wishmaster, and Kelly Wolf, Triumph of the Spirit) and some heavy duty hoses, Warwick and his men expect this to be an open and shut job. But what starts as a simple cleaning task will end with the frightened group in the corridors of an underground cemetery as they dodge a horrific beast more deadly than anything they've ever seen!

Pack your lunch and grab your hard hat…the Graveyard Shift is about to begin!

The Evidence

As of this writing, I am currently living with my parents in Chicago, Illinois, after just moving back from California (no laughing, it's only a weigh station for the next month or so). Much of my writing and reviewing is done in the unfinished basement of their house. At night, it can be downright creepy down here…crevices and corners, slick stone walls, and spiders the size of Buicks. Needless to say, every time I take a step downstairs I tense up. I have this feeling that's exactly how the characters in Graveyard Shift felt—stressed, scared, and very, very nervous. I've gotta admit that I really liked Graveyard Shift. By no means is this great movie making, but it does incorporate three things I like in horror movies: 1.) a really big, drooling monster, 2.) a group of people in an enclosed, trapped setting and 3.) severed limbs. What more could you want from a movie about a giant, mean rat-beast with wings?

Before you all start assuming I'm a complete cinematic yahoo, let me just say that…uh…I have no defense. I am a complete cinematic yahoo. Why do I enjoy movies like Graveyard Shift? I have no idea. I'm a fairly passive guy. I don't get off on hurting others or being violent. I guess that maybe the way I get out my aggressions on life is by watching movies like Friday The 13th, The Relic, and A Nightmare On Elm Street. See, here's how I figure it: when I'm having a bad day and things are really down, I pop in a horror movie. Why? Because I know that even though I'm having a cruddy day, it could always be worse: I could have a gargantuan, slobbering beast trying to kill me in a cramped, damp basement. Suddenly my life doesn't seem quite as bad.

As for Graveyard Shift, it's got everything you're looking for in this type of movie: characters who love to make idiotic decisions ("What's that grumbling noise down in the cellar? Maybe I should go down and check it out…"), sadistic human bad guys who will get their just dessert in the end, and lots of slimy body parts that look like cherry flavored tapioca pudding. The actors all do their share in making sure that their eyes bug out right before they're gobbled up by our friendly neighborhood mutated monster. Special merit goes to Brad Dourif (the voice of Chucky in the Child's Play series) as a whacked out exterminator who spouts stories of men being eaten by killer rats as if he were telling you how to make the world's tastiest chocolate chip cookies. Everyone else is just there to become mega rat droppings.

Yes, Graveyard Shift is a mess, but it's an enjoyable mess. The giant rat-bat monster isn't shown quite enough, and when he does pop up it's in bits and pieces—we never get quite a good look at the guy. Then again, I didn't come away from the movie feeling as if I was cheated out of much. I went in asking for slight entertainment, and that's just what I got. Tomorrow I will have forgotten all about Graveyard Shift, but today my life is better off because of it. And yes, I am a sad little man.

Graveyard Shift is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Here is a good example of a movie that works infinitely better in widescreen than in pan and scan. Graveyard Shift features a lot of shots where the whole screen is taken up by eerie underground lighting or gaggles of rats. It's nice to finally see it in its original aspect ratio. The transfer appears to be very well produced, featuring dark black levels and solid color patterns. While some grain and edge enhancement show up occasionally, overall this is a nice looking print for a film from the early '90s.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and is much better than I expected. Often these remixes for older films are fairly bland, but not here—Graveyard Shift features some excellent directional effects (mainly with dripping water and crashing floorboards), and the whole thing comes in crystal clear without any hiss or distortion. This soundtrack is a pleasant surprise for those who own home surround systems. Also included on this disc are English subtitles along with an English soundtrack in Dolby 2.0 Surround and a Dolby Stereo French soundtrack.

Hey Paramount, I got a grand total of four words for you: "get with the program." Not only do you often charge a bundle for your discs, but lately you've been leaving off the extra features, including even a single theatrical trailer. That's just plain mean.

Closing Statement

I'm a sucker for movies like Graveyard Shift. If you're in the mood for something that's somewhat scary, mostly gory, and just slightly unoriginal…Graveyard Shift'll do. While the audio and video presentations are well done, the lack of any extra features makes this disc an expensive buy at any price.

The Verdict

I like the movie, but the disc isn't a good purchase. Definitely worth your time if you can find it for around ten bucks at a used DVD store. Otherwise, this is a rental if I've ever seen one.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 88
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 80
Story: 78
Judgment: 77

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• English
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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