The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
There is something about a hospital that gives off the sense of both power and failure. It is a place where people come to heal. For many, a hospital is their last stop before they have to get off the ride of life. What makes the whole process run are the personnel in scrubs, with sore feet and bags under their eyes, tending to the revolving door of patients. Outside of television programs such as Scrubs and ER, I feel I have never really seen the trials that nurses are put through on screen. What about their stories? This set-up intrigued me enough, and 12 Hour Shift peels back the curtain just enough to scratch that itch.
A feeling of claustrophobia is displayed in the narrow hallways filled with gurneys and closed rooms harboring the ill and recovering. When the camera pulls out of these confines and steps outside with the wide shots of parking lots and loading bays, there is a sigh of relief. This is nowhere near an amazing film. But what is amazing is how chaos, boredom, and fatigue are peppered throughout the different rooms and office spaces in the hallways. Director Brea Grant tries her best to showcase these settings with varying perspectives. This can be challenging if the bulk of the film is mostly in the same place. She doesn’t shy away from aesthetics, such as the blood and coffee, that tie the threads of a nurses shift. Although sometimes, the walls of her set close in and she boxes herself in.
The story opens with our heroine, Mandy, dragging long on her cigarette before clocking in to start her double shift as a hospital nurse. Her peers run the gamut of varied personality types befitting what we’ve come to expect from a nursing staff: the overbearing pain in the ass, the mentor, and the lazy one.
Mandy has a cousin named Regina, a stereotypical blonde who sets a new benchmark for “airheadedness.” Regina is a courier for Mandy’s moonlighting scheme: selling organs on the black market. Regina goofs, forgetting the goods in a bag instead of placing them in the cooler to later hand off to the recipient. The recipient being a local crime boss played surprisingly charismatically by pro-wrestler Mick Foley. He gives Regina a short window to fix the problem.
Regina returns, hands out, to the hospital looking for replacement organs. Mandy rebuffs her. Regina dons a pair of scrubs, posing as a nurse, slinking room to room looking for the next contender. She also knows that Mandy serves bleach to the patients on their way out to speed up the harvesting process. Regina mistakenly bleaches a patient with failing kidneys (kidneys being the prized organ at the moment). This triggers an investigation, with the fuzz soon arriving. Meanwhile, Regina slips outside and murders a cat-calling skate-boarding punk. Regina is a problem confounder, not a problem solver.
The bodies pile up as newer guests arrive at the hospital. These include a few police officers and a surly handcuffed criminal, played creepily by David Arquette. There is one particular scene that ties the knot on all of the dark humor wafting through this film. As Mandy takes one of Regina’s “victims” into the morgue to hack up, the friendly cop bursts in and catches her. He is completely oblivious to the nature of Mandy’s intentions and even helps to move the body for her to a better position. “Wow, it looks like a butcher shop in here.”
Soon enough, an associate of Regina’s employer shows up at the hospital. He intends to drag Regina out himself for her failure to make good with the organs. With all concerned parties converging, chaos bubbles over. I must admit, the ending of this film wasn’t remarkable or original, but if this film is nothing else, it is consistent with its tone and delivery. It doesn’t deliver any twists or surprises, and it doesn’t need any either.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The dialogue and exchanges between the actors are convincing and organic. I felt the connection between the nursing staff. There is just enough authenticity in the script to pass along as medically sound as needed. The problem is that no one really shines here. The character of Regina is the most interesting, but that is only because she is so cartoonish it's unbelievable. David Arquette is here as well (he also produced). His little screen time is cherished as he brings levity when needed.
For a film about slinging organs, this story needed more guts ...
12 HOUR SHIFT (2020)
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
If there is one thing that this film truly sticks the landing on, it is the authenticity of the guts and blood. I mean, it's set in a hospital after all. We see bags of organs being tossed around. There are some convincing gunshot wounds (they come later). The most believable aspect is the overwhelming sense of tired and exhaustion swept across the faces of the nursing staff.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There is little to report in terms of sound design. The foley samples of blood drops on the floor and coffee poured into mugs help sew the stitches from scene to scene. The score is pretty fun, but there isn’t much to remember here overall.
I would like to believe there is more to see in this film. A backstory on Mandy would have been an interesting addition to the narrative. Why is she having the need to harvest organs? How deep does it go? Where does all the “merchandise” land at? I feel that is the main issue I took with 12 Hour Shift. There wasn’t a whole lot of motivation for everyone. Except maybe Regina, who had a bullet with her name on it coming her way if she didn’t produce. I enjoyed the characters, but I wish they enjoyed what they were doing more. For a film about slinging organs, this story needed more guts.