Skip to content

John’s Horror Corner: Graveyard Shift (1990), Stephen King’s gory, slimy, 80s creature feature is a monstrous good time that really holds up.

October 7, 2020

MY CALL: What a surprisingly fun and gory monster movie this turned out to be. This movie held up so much better than I could have imagined. There’s nothing prosaic going on here, just a well-made straightforward slimy monster movie… and for that, I love it. MOVIES LIKE Graveyard Shift: For more movie adaptations based on Stephen King’s books and other work, try the original TV mini-series of Stephen King’s It (1990), It (2017), Creepshow (1982), Cujo (1983), Needful Things (1993), The Night Flier (1997), Gerald’s Game (2017) or Pet Sematary (1989, 2019), to name a few.  

This Stephen King classic has a strong cold open. This first death scene had some personality to supplement its desired mystery (i.e., the off-screen death). Considering we see very little of our killer, it was still very satisfying and tactfully executed. Also rather cheeky considering the victim dies after spending 5 minutes basically lecturing an audience of basement rats.

The old textile mill in a small Maine town has a flooded basement, decades of debris, an alarming rat infestation, and poses a significant health and safety risk to any who enter. Desperate to pass a safety inspection, the shady manager of the mill bribes the safety inspector to buy some time and forms a graveyard shift clean-up crew (including Andrew Divoff; Wishmaster 1-2, Lost, Faust: Love of the Damned). He also hires a very enthusiastic exterminator (Brad Dourif; The Hazing, Child’s Play, Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky).

Not long after, a second accident steals away another employee complete with some monstrous creature effects. The monster effects are pretty great considering we never see much at once. The realistic eyes, the big wings and claws, the gaping wet esophagus when its mouth is open. As deaths progress, we also enjoy some dismemberment and a shredded beef-flinging bloody stump. We come to discover that the creature wanders a network of mines under the mill which connect to catacombs of the neighboring cemetery.

By the end, the textile workers have turned against each other and are making short work of each other as the monster patiently picks them off. Somehow, the monster always seems to be where it needs to be throughout this labyrinth of forgotten mines. I was beginning to expect there were a lot of creatures.

The cavernous lair and its sea of bones was an awesome sight. But, oh my, when we finally truly see the monster… it’s a slimy gross animatronic delight! A lot of care went into this beast. Its ear twitches, mouth movements and the way it articulates its slimy claws give it life. And while I love this thing’s appearance, why the heck does it look like its completely covered in snot? The thing appears to be a giant bat… with a prehensile rat tail. We get to see quite a lot of this gloriously disgusting monster. If I’m being honest, it’s pretty great and well worth the wait. Plus, it comes to a super chunky gory end.

For his only feature film ever, director Ralph S. Singleton did a great job. I really enjoyed this movie. The story is very linear, easy to follow, but still very satisfying.

Overall this was actually considerably better-paced, gorier and more exciting than I had remembered (having last seen this in the 90s). The monster looks great and it all really holds up!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2020 11:28 am

    This is a really good creature feature with some cool gory special effects. Saw this again recently as well, much better film than I recalled, and well worth checking out.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      October 8, 2020 8:40 pm

      Right!? I feel badly for ignoring it for the last 25-30 years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: