‘Night Shift’ Review – Cat and Mouse Invasion Thriller Maintains Suspense Through Simplicity

Like its title, Night Shift operates on simplicity. A lone woman in a massive factory experiences the worst possible first day of work ever when a break-in occurs. That simplicity allows directors Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen to cut straight to the thrills, creating a sustained level of suspense and violence throughout. It makes for an effective and often breathless experience.

Karen (Natalie Terrazzino) starts her first shift as the night janitor of a sprawling factory with a quick tour of the place courtesy of an abrasive day janitor. That encounter is downright polite compared to a couple of menacing workers that make it clear they side with Danny (JC Oakley III), the husband Karen served with divorce papers. Then there are the frequent calls from home by her kid’s apathetic babysitter. Finally left alone for the night, Karen settles into a peaceful routine. But an unexpected arrival kickstarts a brutal and prolonged fight for survival.

Night Shift horror

Swinson and Thiessen, working off Swinson’s script, make smart choices in introductions to maximize the invasion thrills for a prolonged second and third act. The opening credits play over establishing shots of the setting, giving an idea of just how large the space is before we even lay eyes on Karen. The gruff interactions between Karen and her tour guide relay every pertinent detail in an easily digestible and plausible format. Without spelling it out or getting too heavy-handed – though some dialogue gets clunky – a perfunctory first fifteen minutes or so spells out precisely what Karen will be up against and why.

Night Shift isn’t interested in setting up any narrative surprises. Instead, the filmmakers channel their focus into an unrelenting cat and mouse chase between Karen and a handful of imposing masked invaders. They intend to trap her inside and kill her, but they’ll have to catch her first. Swinson and Thiessen dedicate most of the runtime to creative and edge-of-your-seat sequences to propel and maintain the suspense.

Night Shift review

Terrazzino struggles in the initial introductions but quickly settles into her role once the action kicks into high gear. To avoid detection, Karen must hide, squeeze, climb, crawl, and dangle her way around the factory. Getting found leads to brutality, bloodletting, and extreme peril. Terrazzino handles the physically demanding part well but isn’t as natural with dialogue. It’s occasionally exacerbated by contrived scenarios or clumsy choices meant to progress the plot and stakes.

Solid direction, excellent use of space, and brisk pacing that delivers on plenty of thrills make for a quick and entertaining invasion thriller. The audience may remain one giant step ahead of Karen regarding the killers’ motivations, but it doesn’t detract much from the overarching, pain-inflicting journey. Night Shift’s strength is its simple execution and its tension-fueled cat and mouse chase in an isolated, single setting. Those looking for narrative twists or surprises might come away disappointed, but if you’re in the mood for a lean, mean thriller unafraid to put its characters through some pain, Night Shift offers up a solid and nail-biting time.

Night Shift made its world premiere at the Chattanooga Film Festival.

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