Graveyard Shift (Ralph S. Singleton, 1990, USA)

Made in the wake of the success of Pet Sematary (1989), Graveyard Shift (1990) was a quick cash grab from Paramount in a time of Stephen King adaptation mania. It was one of several King adaptations that year, which also saw the release of Misery and the TV miniseries IT. King short story adaptations have always been a mixed bag, and King has been notoriously loose about licensing the rights to his short stories. "Graveyard Shift" is one of King's earliest short stories, and fairly spare as far as its length and characters. Stretching it out over a feature-length was going to be a challenge no matter the writer, and it certainly was for first-time screenwriter John Esposito.

In the director's chair, we have Ralph S. Singleton, and this is his sole feature credit as a director - another warning sign when it comes to King adaptations. There is not much to say about Graveyard Shift as it pertains to the plot - it is essentially a slasher movie template about a giant rat-bat creature living in the basement of an old textile mill. A stranger named John Hall (David Andrews) arrives in town and begins uncovering the truth. Meanwhile, there is a demented and evil corrupt manager named Warwick (Stephen Macht). The characterizations are bare bones, including Brad Dourif's turn as The Exterminator, who seems to be from another movie. 

The film does try to make up for the lack of characterization with some atmosphere, and the authentic Maine settings do help a bit. There are also some interesting matte-painted sets toward the end of the film. There are laughs to be had at the Pepsi product placement in the film's finale. Overall, there have been worse King adaptations, but Graveyard Shift is a mid-tier adaptation at best.



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