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Rated R
Copyright 1990 Graveyard Inc.
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 16 December 2006

The Characters:  

  • John Hall - Your average, everyday drifter: college educated, in shape, and a crack shot with a slingshot.
  • Jane - She has aspirations never to be Warwick's sexual pet. She becomes his victim.
  • Tucker Cleveland - Brad Dourif as a neurotic rat hunter! He runs around in a combination of SWAT/exterminator gear and generally talks about things that should have driven off any customers long ago. I was sorry when the stone crypt pulverized his head. Still, this guy had issues.
  • Carmichael - His job was to looked bugged out all the time. Becomes the monster's chew toy.
  • Brogan - Local asshole who hates rats; not the sort of guy you provide with a fire hose. Last seen screaming, face covered with blood, before the monster pulls him under the water. Assumed dead.
  • Nardello, Danson, and Stevenson - All of these people become snacks.
  • Warwick - Foreman of the mill whose physiology is strange, like a full-sized midget. Gutted and eaten.
  • The Monster - If you were to take a tumor, a rat's tail, and a bat, put them in a telepod, and hit "go," this would result. Mulched.
  • The Rats - They remind me of professional sports fans, but quieter and with longer tails.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

"Graveyard Shift" is an interesting film for me. I had watched it a few times and always found it to be rather lackluster. When I recently viewed it again, in addition to driving my wife crazy by impersonating Warwick's accent and intoning, "The Graveyard Shift." often, I found it an enjoyable experience. The plot still suffers from a middle section that is lifeless, but the beginning and end kept me entertained.

Most of the action takes place in and under the Bachman Mill in Maine. This place looks like an OSHA nightmare, even before we are introduced to the cluttered lower levels. The worst place of all to work is running the picker that prepares the wool. Located below the main floor, the picker room is a textile worker's version of Hades. Ventilation is nonexistent, causing the temperature to climb over a hundred degrees. To make matters worse, the area is cluttered with trash and equipment. Imagine having to move around huge bags of wool in those conditions. Now imagine doing it in the middle of the night, when you would probably rather be asleep.

I saved the best for last in my description of the mill, because it is infested by hordes of rats. They spill down the stairs, crawl over the bags of wool, and line the walls, looking down at the miserable worker who is feeding the picker. He starts tossing rats into the machine in a misguided attempt to prove his dominance to the rodent army. This is not effective, but it does attract the attention of something else. The monster attacks and the man falls backwards into the picker. Time to hire a new operator.

Somebody being shredded by a wool picker should be big news in a small town, right? The worker's bloody demise is glossed over; heck, I do not remember any measurable discussion.

The next part of the plot might be my favorite. Brad Dourif climbs out of a hatch onto the roof of the mill and stuffs a hose down a pipe. He is dressed like one of those people who want to be a dangerous mall ninja. You know, the sort that engages in covert deanimations and such nonsense. Except, the exterminator really is dangerous, because he is obviously a maniac. What matters is why ten or twenty hoses have been run from the river to the mill. We learn the reason when Tucker's assistant turns on the pump. Water fills the hoses, flooding the hidden spaces where the rats are breeding out of human sight. Another large pump sucks out the murky stew of filth and rats (both dead and alive). It is twisted, but priceless - Cleveland made a huge wet/dry rat vac! "Phooomp! Phoomp! Phoomp!"

Into town walks John Hall. He is a drifter looking for a fresh start. Warwick hires him as the new picker operator with glee. The foreman would probably be a great deal less enthused if he realized Hall was not a pushover and, along with his few belongings, carries a set of ideals with him on the road. The drifter avoids confrontation if at all possible, but will not sit idly by while others are abused or terrorized. Jane hates Warwick, due to him "offering" her a select position on his couch. She takes a liking to John and the two hit it off.

Any worker unlucky enough to pop up on Warwick's radar is placed on the cleanup list. In order to correct the deficiencies noted by the local safety inspector, a lower level of the mill must be cleared. The effort promises to be no picnic; in addition to dripping water, the place is crowded with trash and debris (along with rats, of course). There is also the problem of the monster. It eats Stevenson while the hapless fellow is stringing up lights, while Nardello, Warwick's jilted lover, becomes monster food when she breaks into the mill to steal incriminating paperwork.

So, knowing all of this, who do you think is assigned to the cleanup crew? John, of course, along with Jane (though I think she volunteered for the extra pay). Also present is Brogan, Danson (who is Brogan's lesser partner in crime), Carmichael, Ippeston (who is fired after complaining - he gets to live), and Warwick. Some might point to Warwick including himself as a saving grace. I think that the guy is a complete control freak; plus, we never see him lugging around rotting furniture.

Brogan loses his mind down in the sub-basement. Armed with a fire hose, he starts screaming and blasting away at rats with high-powered streams of water. Best that I can tell, he does this during the entire cleanup effort. Several full nights, trapped in a cluttered basement, while a meaty idiot screams and sprays water all over the place. I hope that somebody brought the Tylenol. Despite the conditions, the workers persevere. They do not encounter the lurking horror.

While the mill is shaping up, Warwick sends Tucker and his dog (would you believe it, even his dog is nuts) in search of the rats' breeding ground. A nearby cemetery, long since disused and barely dry enough to avoid classification as a swamp, is identified as a likely source of the rodents. Well, the crazy little rat terrier is eaten (maybe by rats, but it could have been the monster) and Tucker crushed when the ground gives away and a stone crypt slides onto him.

You know, an awful lot of people are missing. Nobody seems to notice. Are you telling me that Nardello and Stevenson did not have family or at least roommates? There was not a little miss crazy exterminator waiting at home every night when Mr. Cleveland walked in the door? This, my friends, is the danger of living alone. Some unspeakable terror from beneath the earth is going to eat you and nobody will notice for weeks. Not that anyone noticing will help you, but I would appreciate the warning your disappearance could provide.

Once a sizeable section of the sub-basement is clear, John discovers a trap door. It leads down into even more primitive rooms where the workers discover part of an arm. Brogan tries to run back up the stairs, but they collapse. He crashes through the floor and lands in a pool of water where the bat monster gets him (oh, it is an amphibious bat/rat monster). Everybody else flees pell-mell through the rough tunnels, becoming two groups. John and Jane are together, while Warwick leads Danson and Carmichael elsewhere.

The plot flies off the handle at this point. Warwick goes crazy, "Heart of Darkness" style, and smears his face with black smudge off an old bottle. He blames Mr. Hall for the whole situation, reminding the others that John found the trapdoor and led them into the catacombs. Mental instability is so common in this film that you begin to doubt your own sanity and say to yourself, "Maybe I should get checked out." In my case, I know that I am fine. The leader of the chorus of bipedal blue frogs that sing for me while I write reviews says that there is nothing to worry about. So there.

There are only five humans left and one (Warwick) is out to kill two of the others (John and Jane); the monster had better hurry if it is going to get any chow at all. The creature does not fare badly, until it pursues the lone survivor into the mill itself. Out of its natural element, the misshapen beast is little match for a hero the likes of John Hall. Heck, who could beat the man that tamed Melanie Griffith? (Back when that meant something.)

Watch for the scene when Carmichael becomes a victim. This guy finds a narrow hole in the wall, then sticks his arm in. They already know that some sort of ghastly abomination is lurking under the mill. Would you ever stick your arm into a hole in the wall under those circumstances? Me? Sure, after I cleared the area beyond with a grenade or molotov cocktail. (Getting sidetracked here.) The monster chews off Carmichael's hand, causing him to start screaming and jerk it back. Then he shakes the shredded stump around in the air, pelting Warwick and Danson with bloody chunks of meat! Ha ha ha ha!

The movie ends with the "Graveyard Shift" song, a funky beat punctuated by quotes sampled from the film. You just gotta love that song.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • You do not want to know the truth about red or yellow wool.
  • During the Vietnam War, rats worked for the Viet Cong.
  • Valentine Michael Smith was dead on about the nature of what is funny.
  • After dumping the girlfriend, it might be best to keep your beautiful antique car in the garage for a few days.
  • There is a good reason that banks do not use desk drawers as safety deposit boxes.
  • Mills in New England are built atop extensive underground caverns.
  • Rotting bodies are an aphrodisiac.
  • Under the right circumstances, Diet Pepsi cans can save you life.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 3 mins - The rat jury has found you guilty of crimes against rodents. The sentence is death.
  • 22 mins - I thought that a tear had rolled down his cheek; I must have been mistaken.
  • 28 mins - Stevenson might still be alive if he had a pet eagle.
  • 54 mins - Is this wise? You are mean, but exterminator dude is crazy.
  • 64 mins - There is this little thing in a flashlight called "the bulb." I think you just broke yours.
  • 73 mins - John is going to need a shower after this fight.
  • 74 mins - Try to gouge his eyes! Use a bone or something!
  • 81 mins - Wool jammed this picker, but four hundred pounds of bat monster did not?


  • Warwick: "Gonna be a mess, no doubt about it. That sucker aint been touched since Christ was a kid, but it's for double pay."
  • Warwick: "We're going to Hell...together!"

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note graveyardshift1.wav Warwick: "Because of the heat, we only run that sucker through the night. Eleven to seven - the graveyard shift."
Green Music Note graveyardshift2.wav Cleveland: "I've been dealing with these things more than twenty years and we aint talking about no candy-ass field mice."
Green Music Note graveyardshift3.wav Jane: "Fifty-year old files are crap. List them as fifty-year old crap. It's not salvageable."
Brogan: "Ahhhhhhh!" (Fire hose sound.)
Green Music Note graveyardshift4.wav Carmichael: "He's dead, Brogan's dead!"
Warwick: "Shut up!"
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipgraveyardshift1.mpg - 2.9m
This part cracks me up for two reasons. The first is that Carmichael would stick his hand into a hole in the wall, despite knowing a subterranean horror is loose. Second, and not the least, he starts flinging chunks of meat at Warwick and Danson from the bloody stump that results.

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