GRAVEYARD SHIFT, a movie adapted from Stephen King’s short story, abounds in Gothic elements: an unused cemetery complete with decayed, rotting tombstones; a broken-down, rat-infested, still-operating textile mill; a gloomy, turbulent river; and, bloody, mysterious deaths.
Set in Maine, near the town of Gates Falls, the film opens on an ominous note with a lone man working the 11 P.M. to 7 A.M., or graveyard shift, in an abandoned textile mill that has been re-opened. The intense darkness, creaking machinery and plentiful rats combine to create a terror-filled atmosphere where anything can happen.
The man talks to a rat he calls Doris, but quickly becomes aware of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rats staring at him. In a fit of anger mixed with fear, he smashes a thermometer with his fist. Suddenly, as he tries to stop the bleeding, he senses another overwhelming presence. As he screams out in terror, a “thing” grabs and kills him. The rats move in to feast.
The situation intensifies when a second man dies mysteriously while working the graveyard shift. The tyrannical foreman, Warwick, quickly hires an unsuspecting replacement, John Hall, and assigns him to the basement clean-up detail. Jane Wisconsky, another mill worker, is also assigned to clean up the basement when she refuses to grant him sexual favors.
Of course, the atmosphere in the basement is even more foreboding than in the mill. Soon, someone discovers a trap door, and the entire crew cautiously descends the rotting staircase. Warwick goes with them.
A short time later, the group starts back up the stairs, but the rotting steps crumble and disintegrate. With no way of escape, the “thing” attacks and kills one after another, until only Warwick and Hall are left.
They fall into the underground river and are carried out into the cemetery where they engage in a life and death struggle. Hall survives, but soon finds himself back inside the mill with the ever-present rats and the “thing.” The grand finale comes when Hall trips the loom into operation, the rats and the “thing” fall into it and become mincemeat.
“In the film the characters are pitted against each other and a terrifying creature that lives beneath the cemetery next to the textile mill,” comments producer/director Ralph S. Singleton. The creature is rather like the Lochness monster in that we never really see it — we merely see shadows and an occasional part. To a great extent, then, this creature represents the great unknown and brings fear to people. As Christians, however, we need not fear because “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
GRAVEYARD SHIFT fits the classic pattern as far as the horror genre is concerned and succeeds in creating extreme suspense and terror. On the other hand, because of scenes of bloody carnage showing rats eating people, and the numerous offensive obscenities, GRAVEYARD SHIFT deserves to be buried.
27 obscenities, some profanity, bloody and graphic carnage (rats feeding on humans), violence, and murder