Having had the chance to review Fighting Owl Films’ zombie short The Night Shift a few years ago, I was enthused to receive an email containing a proposal to check out the crews first feature length picture; a thoroughly fleshed out rendition of the short by the same moniker.
For those who missed the well-received short that’s garnered a few thousand hits on dailymotion.com already, the general direction of the story follows an undead cemetery caretaker responble for keeping the roaming zombies on the premises. In the off time, our caretaker Mr. Rue Morgan Khristian Fulmer has quite the time refraining from flirting with his very much alive boss, Claire Rennfield Erin Lilley. As you’d expect from a comedic horror piece, a few rogue corpses ensure Morgan’s afterlife remain littered with dramatics.
An unrestricted run time enables the FOF gang to develop the key players in great depth, and believe me when I say there are some real characters to deal with.
First and foremost, we’ve got Rue, who’s a charismatic guy with loads of charm and just enough machismo to pass as a believable hero. Where there’s Rue, there’s Herbie voiced by Soren Odom, a mere fraction of a full skeleton at points nothing more than a skull who’s got heaps of wisdom to share and a joke or two to crack. Claire is an important character with a lot of weight on her shoulders being the film’s only lady and budding heroine, and Roderick Blake Jonathan Pruitt is a serviceably arrogant and smug villain.
For the most part the crew puts forth a sound effort. Erin Lilley shows her inexperience in a few stiff sequences, but she brings an endearing quality to the screen that really makes her acting inexperience rather dismisble. Herbie’s got some great lines, and it’s nice to see an actual prop utilized versus cheap CG. The films major star however, is hands down Khristian Fulmer. He’s already remarkably comfortable in front of the camera, and seems a natural fit as the film’s lead, which he proves by ealy carrying this picture.
Director Thomas Smith brings forth some great ideas and a fistful of nods to some clasc material including a few low key tributes to legendary zombie flicks Night of the Living Dead and Sam Raimi’s surprise favorite Evil Dead…hell, even our hero’s name is Rue Morgan, if that’s not familiar to you, you’ve missed a great magazine!, and manages to make fine use of a limited budget if I recall, the gang was raing fan funds back when they released the original short.
The picture has an awesome 80’s feel, and never pretends to take itself too serious, which is one of the major areas in which The Night shift truly wins. Some of the technical aspects of production are flawed, but in a few specific instances, things come together in a strangely appropriate fashion.
There are some scenes in which lighting makes for a bit of an issue, that ironically summons a strangely strong feeling of nostalgia; Scout’s Honor, there were a few moments I could have sworn I was watching Sean Cunningham’s iconic Friday the 13th despite zero milarities in plots. That may sound like an awkward statement, but I conder it a tremendous compliment.
The film’s only gnificant err is the pacing. There are a handful of scenes that draw a lull in the action. In my personal opinion a handful of sequences would have been better suited as DVD bonus features. At 123 minutes runtime, I think this story could be well told in 100. Depending upon your personal appreciation of dialogue, you may completely disagree with me.
I’m glad I got the chance to revit this kooky graveyard. There are some priceless moments tucked away in this micro-budget feature, and they’re moments worth reviting. Thomas Smith and Fighting Owl Films deserve major respect for compiling an inspired piece that acts as a nice reminder that pason is often far more powerful than the mighty dollar gn and familiar Hollywood go-arounds.