The Overlook Motel: ‘Last Shift’ Will Get Under Your Skin

Welcome to The Overlook Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable, I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct’. 

In this installment of The Overlook Motel, we will be looking back on the genius of Anthony DiBlasi’s Last Shift. This is a film with the potential to spook even the most seasoned of horror fans. It subverts expectations early and often. It also takes some of its cues from true-life horrors, blurring the line between real and make-believe. 

Last Shift follows officer Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) on her first shift as an officer of the law. The notion that her introduction to the job is a solo effort in a building with a history of strange goings-on (to say the least) makes the premise infinitely more terrifying. Officer Loren finds herself holding down the fort at an old station for its final night of operation. And what should be an opportunity to catch up on some light reading turns into an all-out nightmare. Members of a sadistic cult harass the new recruit and she eventually begins to lose her grip on reality. 

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With Last Shift, DiBlasi subverts expectations by choosing well-lit sets and a sterile color palette. The station set is far from pristine but it doesn’t look like it was crafted for the sole purpose of looking menacing. Many films that use an old or soon-to-be abandoned building attempt to incite fear and dread with low light and dark colors. But DiBlasi doesn’t rely on those tried-and-true conventions to build atmosphere. He carves his own path and the film is better for it. DiBlasi leans into the horror of isolation and the inherent terror of having your experience discounted while in peril. Officer Loren asks for help but is repeatedly dismissed and doubted by her peers. That makes the entire ordeal that much more frightening. Our lead is all alone and largely helpless against the supernatural threat that lurks in the building.

Last Shift

In addition to great direction from DiBlasi, we are also gifted with a standout performance from Juliana Harkavy (television’s Arrow). The actor does a remarkable job of carrying the film on her shoulders. She plays officer Loren with a (mostly) tough exterior but gives the viewer plenty of glimpses at her humanity. As the film progresses, we see more and more of her vulnerable side. Loren is the only character on camera for large portions of the film. But it’s never tedious or taxing to spend time with her. Her reactions rarely defy logic. She’s the kind of protagonist you want to see make it through such a harrowing ordeal. 

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DiBlasi and his co-writer Scott Poiley did a great job of conceiving the character. However, an equal share of the credit belongs to Harkavy for a stoic performance that keeps the viewer invested, even between the film’s bountiful scares. 

Speaking of scares, Last Shift is one of the films I default to when someone asks me the last time I was scared by a horror movie. It didn’t give me nightmares or make me afraid to sleep with the lights off. But it stuck with me. The film made me jump repeatedly while I was watching it. It left an impression that lasted long after the credits rolled. 

The sheer devotion of the cult members officer Loren faces off against is terrifying. That single piece has stuck with me for the long term. They don’t have a lot of screen time. But each performer that plays a member of The Paymon cult sells the performance in a way that’s hard to dismiss. It calls to mind the level of control Charles Manson (who clearly served as an inspiration for Paymon) had over his followers and blurs the lines between the real and the imaginary in a way that got under my skin. 

DiBlasi proves himself a master of terror and suspense with Last Shift. The way he builds tension through unpredictable timing, claustrophobic camerawork, and perfectly placed jump scares never ceases to blow my mind. 

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I reached out to Anthony DiBlasi for his input on crafting a film that has the potential to scare even the most seasoned horror fans. He shared what he believes helped ratchet up the tension to eleven. Read on for his take:

“When conceiving Last Shift, I wanted to build a film around strong sound design. Not just cool design, but where sound was a character throughout. Oftentimes driving the narrative. On the day after principal photography, we went back to the location, which was a police station in Florida, and we staged a day of recording sound. We had cast come in and we improvised scenarios within the cells and in pitch black hallways, and we placed mics in 7 or 8 places around the building, to capture the spatial nature of each sound. The sound teams also went around the abandoned station and recorded pipes, banging, creaks, everything that made a sound in that building, they recorded.

Then, while I was editing I was able to get ahead of the post sound process, I had an entire library of sound to choose from. Every sound effect in Last Shift is something we recorded on set. And in pre-production, I showed the cast and crew a documentary from 1973 called Manson, it’s a very personal look into his followers, and it was made right after Manson was arrested. So, everyone was still living on the ranch. You get to see this incredible point of view and the devotion of these people. It really set the tone for the entire shoot.”  

If you opt to check out Last Shift out, please let us know your thoughts via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. As of the publication of this post, the film is streaming on Tubi, Pluto, and Vudu! So, what are you waiting for?



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