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Film / Graveyard Shift

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Graveyard Shift is a 1990 horror film, based on the short story of the same name by Stephen King and starring David Andrews, Brad Dourif, Stephen Macht, and Andrew Divoff.

Drifter John Hall arrives in a flyspeck town and goes to work at the local textile mill, where he discovers a severe rat problem in the basement. Warwick, the mill's disgruntled foreman, isn't willing to do anything about it until it becomes apparent that the mill will close unless the rats are stopped. Following a descent into the cavernous depths of the basement, Hall, Warwick, and other employees are trapped by a collapse, and soon encounter a gigantic, bat-like monster hellbent on devouring them.


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This film provides examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Danson, Brogan, and Stephenson who picked on Hall throughout the movie.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness / Adaptational Badass: Wisconsky in the short story is described as a lazy, whiny, cowardly fat man. Wisconsky in the movie is a fit and fairly attractive woman who is much braver and more proactive by comparison.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The short story's premise that ordinary rats had evolved into armored and winged variants controlled by a giant albino queen isn't referenced at all, leaving the monster as a less-fantastical giant mutant bat.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Warwick in the short story was simply a dick to Hall and the other mill workers, more or less ending up an Asshole Victim. Warwick in the film is a sadistic lunatic who goes full-blown murderous by the final act. Ironically, it's Hall who seems sadistic in the short story.
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  • An Arm and a Leg: Carmichael gets his arm ripped off after sticking it through a hole in a wall. Mind, this is after he and the other workers know there's a killer monster with them.
  • Ax-Crazy: Warwick goes batshit crazy after being trapped in the cave underneath the mill and sustaining a severe head injury.
  • Bad Boss: Warwick, who on a good day fires his employees for questioning him and assigns workers he personally doesn’t like to shitty jobs out of spite, and in bad days outright attacks them.
  • Bad with the Bone: One is wielded by Warwick in the film's final act.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The monster appears to be a Type 2.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The monster and Warwick after he goes crazy.
  • Chekhov's Gun / Chekhov's Skill: Hall's slingshot, and his accuracy when using it to fire empty soda cans.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The opening victim falls into machinery and is torn apart. The monster meets the same fate at the end.
  • Death by Adaptation: Wisconsky is mortally wounded by Warwick.
  • Eccentric Exterminator: Tucker Cleveland (played by Brad Dourif) takes way too much pride in killing rats, and keeps a dog specifically bred and trained to hunt rats that he feeds whiskey and a pistol, which he uses in particularly aggressive rats.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Warwick, when about to make a suicidal attack on the monster, spouts this at it:
Warwick: We're going to Hell... together!
  • Freudian Excuse: Cleveland’s love of killing rats stems from having watched the Viet Cong feed his fellow soldiers to rats during the Vietnam War.
  • Gender Flip: Wisconsky, an enormously fat guy in the short story, is a physically fit woman(and Hall's romantic interest) in the film, basically an in-surname-only version of the character.
  • Hooks and Crooks: Hall wields a hook to defend himself during the finale.
  • Jerkass: Warwick.
  • Large Ham: Warwick, Tucker, and most of the mill workers.
  • Monster Delay
  • Noisy Nature: The rats squeak constantly.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The mill is very clearly a wretched place to work, with stairs that collapse, a machine that can easily thresh somebody to death, and the vermin problem. Justified after a fashion, as it's run by a callous lunatic.
  • Sanity Slippage: Warwick suffers it after being trapped in the mill's depths. The head injury he sustained couldn’t have helped either.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Hall makes it.
  • Taking You with Me: Warwick tries to do this with the monster. He fails.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: While they're at least agouti and look wild, the live rats aren't particularly aggressive-looking. Some of them are even visibly bruxing - busily grinding their back teeth - which any rat-lover will tell you is cheerful body language.
  • Reprise Medley: The end credits take snippets of Warwick's dialogue and almost create a rap song. It's worthy of "Weird Al" Yankovic. It's got to be heard to be believed.
    The Graveyahd shift.
    Show's....Ovah!
    Can't be more than an instant enema by now.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: Cleveland recounts how, while he was in the Vietnam War, he saw the Viet Cong train rats at least a foot long to eat American soldiers.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Its pretty clear Tucker Cleveland is still traumatized over seeing fellow soldiers being eaten alive by giant rats.
  • Urine Trouble: One incontinent rat leaves a large puddle of pee on the seat of a chair.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Warwick is a Bad Boss because he believes it's the only way to keep the mill open. This goes out the window once he goes crazy.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Warwick's infamous speech patterns. The character is supposed to be from Maine but sounds more like, as one YouTube comment put it,"every accent in the world, with perhaps a TOUCH of New England thrown in for variety"
  • The World's Expert on Getting Killed: Tucker gets his head smashed by the monster(indirectly).
  • You Dirty Rat!

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