Recent college graduates joyride in a stolen cop car only to uncover a secret that will doom mankind.
Gregory Allan Ballard
Louis Benjamin Del Guercio
How long has it been? **checks files**
Hmmm… I can’t locate the last time that I used my beloved, and now patented quote from Mommie Dearest – when I come across a film which I must review – which I find to be less-than.
So here goes. As Joan Crawford in the camp classic Mommie Dearest – Faye Dunaway lifts up a script which she’s less than pleased with, gives it a little shake and says to Steve Forrest as Greg, “It’s not goooood!”
It was the World Premiere at the 17th Annual Shriekfest Film Festival in Los Angeles – for the sci-fi thriller The Shift.
And the referenced quote more than suffices for my overall reactions to this particular flick.
High school buddies, and now post-college aged “grown-ups” – Steven (The Gallows‘ Reese Mishler) and Jeremy (Paul Woolfolk) are back together in their hometown of Indianapolis. In an attempt to shake up their boring lives, they get the chance to do a ride-along with Jeremy’s cousin, Officer Marcus (Christopher Wilburn) – and as the afternoon progresses into evening, they pick up Steven’s former flame Emma (Sarah Davenport) – before embarking on a joy-ride, which will include some other-worldly danger, car chases through the city and a final showdown with what appear to be some sort of “body snatchers”.
Right off the bat – I can say that the film really felt pointless.
Harsh? Yes. But apt.
I don’t know what the film was trying to say or achieve. It’s not well-written, the characters aren’t inspired, the pacing is guilty of the ultimate sin – it’s boring and the story meanders. It’s clearly an attempt to somehow bring up the classics out of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers franchise (even by mentioning the term “body snatchers”), but there is no explanation of who or what these beings are or what they want. The basic knowledge we get is that they can be destroyed a la your typical zombie – through a head-shot. But that’s it.
And if you’re not going to focus on plot and the more extreme spectacle of your idea – and your intention is to make a character piece – then your characters and dialogue better be spot-on. Not the case here.
Other than Christopher Wilburn’s scenery-chewing Officer Marcus – there’s not much to recommend as far as performance. He’s a total hoot while on-screen. He’s a hopeless misogynist and a total poser, but that makes the character interesting. It’s a fun (if all too brief) performance from Wilburn.
The film’s structure is odd. For literally the first 20 minutes of the film, nothing happens. We get a fun (and frankly interesting) intro to our two main buddies – and the set-up for the (inexplicable) cop car joyride is acceptable. But then it’s about these three guys driving around being semi-douch-ey, playing pranks (what was that all about?) and drinking beer. It all feels like filler, and I was left wondering, “When will the film actually start?”
We don’t get introduced (other than in discussions between Steven and Jeremy) to Emma until late in the film – and her addition to the group feels forced and unrealistic. Steven and Emma haven’t had any contact in about four years (while he was away at college) and so the attempt at an automatic re-attraction doesn’t work. There’s no chemistry between the two actors and the fact that Emma barely questions what they are doing in a police car – doesn’t ring true.
The quick prologue (too quick) introduces us to the police dispatcher? Is that correct? It went by so fast and looking back at it when we reach the film’s conclusion – it was confusing and so then seemingly pointless.
There’s also the stop-off later in the film – in some nearby woods – where the kids do some target practice – in the midst of their breathless escape. It’s a symptom of the greater problem in the film as a whole. There are so many nonsensical pieces as far character reactions, character actions and real-world consequences.
Of note, a trip to a local convenience store to pick up a USB cord – introduces the audience to store worker Larry (Lawrence Dillard, in a fun supporting performance clearly inspired by Vincent D’onofrio’s work in Men in Black). After he acts super weird, stares at our threesome in the store parking lot and overall just appears menacing (is he one of them?), our leads drive away in a hurry – fearing for their safety. And yet, when they decide to find someone to help them (“Who can we trust?”) they return to the convenience store and engage Larry to be of assistance? Huh?
The film tries to gain sympathy for the various friend/love interest relationships (one sequence of Steven and Emma in the car is brutally over-long, and non-sensical in the timeline of what Jeremy is doing elsewhere), but they feel inorganic to the film’s flow (the car scene stops the film dead in its tracks). On top of that, we don’t care for these people from the get-go, so these feeble aims to solidify already tepid connections, well… they just don’t work.
I was annoyed by the editing. In what appears to be an attempt to use every possible “real” camera set-up available in the modern world (police car dash cams, tiny cameras attached to a pair of eyeglasses, security cameras, etc.) the editing felt awfully choppy and is quite distracting. This is all interspersed with traditional camera-work. In the end, this constant back and forth just feels messy.
I was impressed with the many car chases which the filmmakers shot throughout the Indianapolis area. While they’re not seamless, it’s amazing to see what they captured in what I can assume was some true guerilla filmmaking. Nice work!
But in the end, not-so-great performances (aside from Christopher Wilburn), boring pacing and an unfocused story/script don’t make for an engaging time at the movies.
So again – like the great Faye Dunaway said in Mommie Dearest – “It’s not goooood!”
The Shift is playing the festival circuit, so no wider release information is yet available.