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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/24/02

Graveyard Shift
1990 (2002) - Paramount

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Graveyard Shift

Film Rating: D-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B-/F

Specs and Features

88 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (11 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 20) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

I've not read the Stephen King short story upon which Graveyard Shift is based, but I cannot fathom it being any better than the movie version. It's a movie that focuses on nobody, leads nowhere and is ultimately about nothing. I've demonstrated my ability to enjoy crap films (see my review of Silver Bullet for instance), but this is inexcusably awful. It's about a despicable foreman (Stephen Macht) who supervises a rundown textile mill. The basement is overflowing with vermin, and he hires an out-of-towner (David Andrews) to take care of the problem after his exterminator (Brad Dourif) "mysteriously" disappears on the job. That's about as much story as you're going to get here. The rest is a big, dreadful unappealing mess.

It just made me ask myself a lot of dumb questions. When using a coffin as a flotation device to navigate through water-filled underground corridors, why would you scream bloody murder when the coffin fell open to reveal a dead body inside? Do you assume that since it kindly guided you through bloody, rat-infested waters, that it's a nice, friendly, empty type of coffin? Did Pepsi actually pay a promotional fee for the product placement? Is demonstrating the lethal capability an airborne can of Pepsi has on overgrown rats a good way to sell your product? What kind of employee retention program does this textile mill have that people are willing to stay for extended periods of time? Would I stay on despite the overwhelming presence of dog-sized rats that actively pursue you, indefensibly poor working conditions (floors routinely give way beneath people) and a supervisor who continually and visibly demands sexual favors from his female employees? And how did the 6-foot hairless rat go unnoticed for so long? Does it smile and wave at the other employees when they pass in the hallway? Should you try watching this film? No, not if you can help it. Avoid this film like anyone without a mock-Maine accent would a factory overrun by rats.

For all intents and purposes, this film looks just okay on DVD. The 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented here with anamorphic enhancement. The downside is that artifacting is significant enough to cause some of the foggy sequences to take on a muddy look. The film's considerable dimly lit shots look fine, and show generally nice black level and shadow detail. Color reproduction is accurate, and flesh tones are realistic and even-toned. There's a small amount of damage evident to the source print, but it's really only noticeable in the opening sequence of logos. After this point in the film, it all but subsides completely.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is about as good as the video quality. There's not a whole lot of movement to the mix, either across the front end of the surround channels. Some ambient sound effects liven up the mix from time to time, and the squeaky rat noises they generated were energetic enough to warrant a few confused head twists from both my dog and my cat. Dialogue is rooted squarely in the center speaker, and the sparse music track is effective enough in the Bass response is almost zilch, which results in a mix that has a tendency to take on a flat, one-dimensional sound. It's certainly not a bad mix, but it isn't very exciting either.

Features? You want features? No, you don't. There's nothing to say about this movie anyway. Just like the Silver Bullet DVD, this one is 100 percent free of extra material. I don't know that there's anyone attached to this project that would be willing to return to discuss it to any extent. And that's a shame. For the one person out there that likes this film, it's a shame… or a blessing. I can't decide which.

So, there you have it - a dull film, without even unintentional laughs, and its boring DVD. The choice is clear here. I don't have to spell it out for you, do I? Sure I do. If you see this disc anywhere, throw it to the ground and smash it to pieces. Beat it like you would your little brother after he thumbed through issues 1 through 10 of your precious Spider-Man comic book collection. Even Stephen King's most devoted fans ("I'm your number one fan") should pay no mind to this tedious exercise in lackluster filmmaking.

Dan Kelly
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