Saturday, February 25, 2012

Graveyard Shift: A film so wonderfully bad it can never be remade.

Stephen King is if nothing else prolific.   He is also someone that folks seem to think would be easy to adapt.  They are often proved wrong and the world of Stephen King films is littered with the resulting messes.  Certainly Graveyard Shift is a bad film.  Exploded up to a feature movie from an itty bitty story, the film lacks logic, good acting, and narrative coherence.  After saying that though, I have to say I always watch it when it pops up on the TV because there is something hypnotizingly bad about it that just makes it a hoot.

Let's compare it to another King film based on a short story that is equally insane.  "The Mangler" if you haven't caught it is a film about a possessed bit of industrial machinery.  The film has a few interesting points but it is bad in a dull way, a hollywood way.  Now I believe there are three big differences between the two films.

  1. Graveyard Shift embraces Maine with a passion.  I haven't heard so many bad Maine accents since the last time I saw a Murder She Wrote marathon.   At first, it does take away from the film because when you add bad accent with bad acting it acts as a multiplier rather than additive.  But then something happens.  It becomes less badness and more something like a tall tale.  This isn't real Maine this is Stephen King Maine the most eviliest place in the world (don't believe me, the makers of "Once Upon A Time" said as much!)  The lapses in logic become bearable even to a degree loveable.  The film becomes more like a Mad Hatter tea party rather than serious film making.
  2. Graveyard Shift embraces the madness of the story.  We have here a story of a monster under a textile mill.  Why is it there?  Nobody knows.  Wouldn't people have noticed it before since it has a habit of eating the workers?  Nobody seems to have a clue.  Now in The Mangler there is a similar nuttiness in a possessed factory machine specially when it pulls out of the cement and starts chasing people.  That movie though tried to sugar coat the madness with an over arching narrative construct consisting of the weird owner of the factory.  The justification doesn't work, its like lip stick on a pig.  No matter what you are dealing with a demonically possessed ironing machine.  That decision shows that the makers of The Mangler were more concerned with making an "accessible" movie instead of going with the twisted weird heart of the story.
  3. Graveyard Shift embraces the subtext of the story like an undergrad lit major.  See it's all the bosses versus the workers and college boys versus working joes.  The monster is a symbol of the factory and capitialism chewing up the workers with abandon.  So when you accept this subjext as narrative then the motiveless craziness of the boss makes sense.  In many ways this is a hamfisted propaganda tract that's just like what you might get from soviet Russia but with more blood.    They even bring in Brad Dourif as a vietnam vet to bring that muck into the mix.The Mangler comes from the same neck of the woods but the film makers turn it into a boring story of a cult.
There are some good things about the film.  The underground scenes while lacking any logic look fantastic.  The practical effects of the monster beats Syfy CGI any day of the week.  Anyway, there's no way you can get all these weird ingredients back together.  Someone in  the suit would market test this beast right into the ground.  So let's just enjoy it for what it is.  A great big bit of cheese.

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