When you see the words “Based on a _____ by Stephen King” you know you have an 85% chance of slogging through crap. Take for example, 1990’s Graveyard Shift.
It seems promising, based on the setting. A remote Maine cotton mill next to a really old graveyard? It looks great. A lot of work went into making the setting creepy. Then the rest of the effort went into making sure you had almost not a single sympathetic character.
Apparently the mill, infested by rats, is also contains a monster that comes out to randomly feed. Every time the monster gets someone? People assume they quit. Because, hey, it’s normal for all your night-shift employees to quit and never tell a soul, right? So, we meet a drifter, John (David Andrews who managed to make sure this movie did not kill his career-good on him!*), who takes a job at the Bachmann Mill (named after the pseudonym that Stephen King wrote under). He befriends fellow employee Jane (Kelly Wolfe) and they start getting romantic. The film seems to hint that the monster is a giant rat, and we sometimes see a massive rat tail slithering away.
One day, the mill inspector tells the mill’s manager Warwick (Stephen Macht) that they have to clean the basement within a very limited time frame. He offers extra money for some of the employees to clean the basement out overnights. While cleaning, they find an entrance to a secret cavern. Thinking there might be untold treasures everyone goes on inside. Because that is the smart thing. Going into rickety mines that have apparently been covered up for a loooong time. Long enough that nobody even knew they were there.
Once in the caverns? They get trapped and must find a different way out. I know you did not see that coming. But you will be really surprised that the monster lives in these cavers. No? Okay… what if I told you it starts eating the mill employees as they try and find their way out? Still not surprised? There you go. That’s the movie.
Warwick goes crazy and tries to kill John and Jane. He is successful with Jane, saving John from having to give up his drifter lifestyle. But the movie is just one death after another. The film reveals the monster is some sort of giant bat thing that apparently had been feeding off of bodies from the cemetery. And sometimes mystery is good…but some sort of “what is it” might have been nice here. Maybe it is part of some local legend like the Jersey Devil…but nobody took the time to figure that out.
What results is a by the numbers movie that is not any good, but fails to be bad enough to be goofy entertainment.
*Actually, it is a bit impressive that the majority of the cast continued to work steadily into the present, only a couple actors saw their mainstream film and television careers end with this film.