Night Shift, from Benjamin China and Paul China, is a horror film about a hotel you don’t want to visit. The Bates Motel and The Overlook Hotel are worse places, but The All Tucked Inn is definitely on my list of Vacation Spots To Be Avoided. Its kitschy name is really the most fun thing about it. The building is worn, the guest rooms are sparse and bedraggled, there are decades-old taxidermied animals everywhere, and you can practically smell the musty order through the screen. And there are rats. It’s safe to say this hotel has seen better days.

That being said, it is absolutely the kind of hotel you don’t mind visiting vicariously through a screen. While you’re snuggled up safe on your rat-free couch, you can enjoy the experience of watching someone else roam the dark hallways and explore the dusty rooms and deal with whatever creepy things lie lurking in the shadows. That, in fact, sounds like a pretty nice evening. Night Shift is a fun little horror yarn that spins the supernatural, the very real, and the “what was that?” into an entertaining film.

The film takes place on the first night of Gwen’s (Phoebe Tonkin) employment at the All Tucked Inn. The regular night staffer has had an emergency and hotel owner Teddy (Lamorne Morris) needs someone to fill in. Gwen just rolled into town and is in need of cash, so on paper, it’s a done deal. But as Teddy shows her around, her reservations begin to rise. The hotel is in the middle of nowhere, only one guest has checked in, and the best Teddy can offer her if danger  were to arise is a small room behind the counter that she can deadbolt while she waits for the police to arrive. It’s less than reassuring. But Gwen needs the money, so she agrees to stay. Afterall, how much can possibly happen over the course of a single night?

As it turns out, a lot. Strange phone calls are coming to the front desk from one of the unoccupied rooms. She begins seeing mysterious figures wandering the property, only to have them vanish as she gets close. And a strange car keeps circling the parking lot, only to drive off after a minute or so. There is definitely something strange happening, though exactly what remains the question. Ghosts are one thing, but Gwen is running from demons of her own. And it’s unclear if what she is witnessing is supernatural, or something very much a part of the living world. Perhaps both. But whatever it is, it’s enough to make her think she may have made a mistake with this gig. 

Overall, this film is a lot of fun. It has a great balance of seriousness and humor, bolstered by a solid cast. The interactions between Teddy and Gwen when she initially arrives are really funny, and there is a scene featuring character actor Patrick Fischier later in the film that had me laughing, completely unsettled, and wanting to punch something, all in one go. 

The humor balances nicely with the darker scenes, where Gwen is walking around the dark and creepy hotel alone. There are a lot of great moments where she sees just a flash of something in the darkness, or around a corner, but can’t quite make it out. We can’t quite put together exactly what is going on, but we are giving enough intriguing puzzle pieces to know that this hotel is hiding something within its walls.

The way the setting is utilized also works to the story’s advantage. Hotels are naturally transient places, under a constant state of change. People come and go and over the years, the structure naturally ages and decays. So when we enter a run down place like the All Tucked Inn, we are entering a place that has a transient history. A lot has happened in small increments, and these walls have thousands of stories to tell. Gwen’s is just the latest one.Overall, Night Shift is enjoyable. Though, I will say the story kind of pulls the rug out in the last 20 minutes or so in a way that is going to lose some viewers. Personally, I found myself not minding it much. It’s not the most delicate way to end a movie, but I was still having fun along the way, and to me, that’s what carries the most weight. The experience of the film is fun and the setting and supporting cast give it a lot of character.

Movie Score: 3.5/5