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Film / Graveyard Shift

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It’s a living... but not for long.

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

Drifter John Hall arrives in the flyspeck town of Gates Falls, Maine and goes to work at the Bachman 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.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: The Queen Rat doesn't appear in the movie at all, despite being The Reveal in the short story.
  • Animalistic Abomination: The Queen Rat in the short story, a massive, cow-sized creature with no eyes or limbs, who exists solely to endlessly spawn more rats.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Aside from the implausible mutations, the rats in the short story appear to have been locked up in a sealed sub-basement with no food source for years without dying. Averted in the film, where the tunnels are shown to be extensive and connect to the outside.
    • "Doris", the rat that urinates on a chair in the movie, must've been 90% bladder, as the resulting puddle covers nearly half the seat.
  • Ascended Extra: The Bat-Rat, which was just mentioned in passing in the short story as one of several unique breeds that had evolved in the isolated ecosphere beneath the mill, is the Big Bad in the movie.
  • Asshole Victim: Danson, Brogan, and Stephenson who picked on Hall throughout the movie.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: 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.
  • 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 on 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. It's implied - albeit a lot more clearly in the original story - that the creature is not a bat at all, but a rat that has grown bat-like wings through something resembling convergent evolution.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The monster and Warwick after he goes crazy.
  • Censor Box: In-Universe. The bulletin board at the diner has a centerfold pinup, to which someone has affixed a notice big enough to cover her rack.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Hall's slingshot and his accuracy when using it to fire empty soda cans.
  • Cool Car: Wisconsky has a red 1966 Ford Mustang and Warwick has a black 1960 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
  • Creepy Good: Cleveland, to an extent. He's somewhat unethical when it comes to his job and as creepy as only Brad Dourif can be, but he's one of the only people at the mill to be friendly to Hall.
  • 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: Tucker 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.
  • Here We Go Again!: The short story ends with the morning shift workers arriving at the mill, completely unaware of the horror they're about to descend into.
  • Hooks and Crooks: Hall wields a hook to defend himself during the finale.
  • Jerkass: Warwick.
  • Large Ham: Everyone is this to some extent, but Warwick and Tucker take the cake.
  • 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 Large Ham dialogue and broad New English accent, along with snippets of everyone else’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 Graveyard shift.
    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.
    • ALL the rats in the short story, especially once the workers descend into the sub-basement where the rats have bred and evolved completely undisturbed for decades.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: It's pretty clear Tucker Cleveland is still traumatized overseeing 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.
  • The Vietnam Vet: Played with and discussed. Cleveland served there, and specifically mentions the siege of Con Thien as the place where he first saw rats eat men alive; in the present day, he seems to have focused all his PTSD, anger, and psychotic tendencies onto rats specifically as a form of revenge. He admits it, somewhat, but also says that he doesn't think of himself as the "sad" or "pathetic" type popularized in fiction:
    "...And I AIN'T one a' them burnin'-baby flashback fuckups y' see Bruce Dern playin', so quit yer grinnin'."
  • 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).
  • World of Ham: With the exception of Hall and Wisconsky, everyone is some flavor of a Large Ham.
  • You Dirty Rat!