Stephen King's Graveyard Shift

 (822)5.01 h 26 min1990R
Based on a frightening Stephen King story about workers menaced by a giant mutant rat-bat while cleaning a textile factory basement.
Ralph Singleton
David AndrewsBrad Dourif
English [CC]
Audio languages
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William J. DunnAnthony LabonteJoan SingletonRalph S. SingletonBonnie SugarLarry Sugar
Horror and Thriller
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Alcohol usefoul languagefrightening scenessmokingviolence
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4.5 out of 5 stars

822 global ratings

  1. 73% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

KtReviewed in the United States on February 8, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Great for a horror movie
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Yes this isn't the best of the best. But for a horror movie, it was pretty dang good.

The good:
1) Unlike most bad horror movies, it had well defined entertaining characters. I found the characters to be one of the best parts of this movie. I especially liked the main character, the boss, and the exterminator. I liked the motley crew of factory workers and their antics.
2) The setting was very atmospheric, uniquely creepy, and entertaining. I liked the whole caricature of terrible working conditions in factories. It was pretty funny to see the OSHA recommendation to shut down which we saw briefly.
3) This movie taught me what it meant to be creeped out by rats. Previously I had always found them cute. Some really disturbing imagery with them staring down with their beady eyes. And the story told near the beginning was particularly revolting.

The bad:
1) I found the 'monster' to be a bit cheesy. But hey it kind of fits with the slight cheesiness off this movie.
2) The gross parts and gore of this movie turned me off. I prefer the more thoughtful creepiness that is usually found in Stephen King movies. Particularly in the final scene - I felt my stomach turning uncomfortably. Yuck. I suppose the gore could be a positive for some people though.

Overall, this movie surpasses the vast majority of horror movies out there which have more nebulous ill-defined characters, lack of entertainment, and uninteresting settings. Despite its cheesiness, there was more intelligence behind this one.
14 people found this helpful
Michelle J. BurnoreReviewed in the United States on March 23, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
Stephen King's brilliance, once again mangled by Hollywood
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It is so rare, when a Stephen King novel is done correctly, that it tends to win Oscars, when it IS. I was hoping for the story he wrote, and instead got a gore flick with a bat-rat-skinless thing. I DID however, appreciate, that they at least TRIED to bring King's characters to life, and show them in their every day lives, before the "clean up". It wasn't enough. I am again disappointed. It takes a movie staff, that truly appreciates King's work, to make it happen. The mini-series "The Stand", "Shawshank Redemption", "Green Mile", "Stand by me". It CAN be done. When movie folks just want to steal his magic without actually GETTING it? We end up with this.
12 people found this helpful
John's Horror CornerReviewed in the United States on October 8, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Stephen King’s gory, slimy, 80s creature feature is a monstrous good time that really holds up.
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What a surprisingly fun and gory monster movie this turned out to be. This movie held up so much better than I could have imagined. There’s nothing prosaic going on here, just a well-made straightforward slimy monster movie… and for that, I love it.

This Stephen King classic has a strong cold open. This first death scene had some personality to supplement its desired mystery (i.e., the off-screen death). Considering we see very little of our killer, it was still very satisfying and tactfully executed. Also rather cheeky considering the victim dies after spending 5 minutes basically lecturing an audience of basement rats.

The old textile mill in a small Maine town has a flooded basement, decades of debris, an alarming rat infestation, and poses a significant health and safety risk to any who enter. Desperate to pass a safety inspection, the shady manager of the mill bribes the safety inspector to buy some time and forms a graveyard shift clean-up crew (including Andrew Divoff; Wishmaster 1-2, Lost, Faust: Love of the Damned). He also hires a very enthusiastic exterminator (Brad Dourif; The Hazing, Child’s Play, Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky).

Not long after, a second accident steals away another employee complete with some monstrous creature effects. The monster effects are pretty great considering we never see much at once. The realistic eyes, the big wings and claws, the gaping wet esophagus when its mouth is open. As deaths progress, we also enjoy some dismemberment and a shredded beef-flinging bloody stump. We come to discover that the creature wanders a network of mines under the mill which connect to catacombs of the neighboring cemetery.

By the end, the textile workers have turned against each other and are making short work of each other as the monster patiently picks them off. Somehow, the monster always seems to be where it needs to be throughout this labyrinth of forgotten mines. I was beginning to expect there were a lot of creatures.

The cavernous lair and its sea of bones was an awesome sight. But, oh my, when we finally truly see the monster… it’s a slimy gross animatronic delight! A lot of care went into this beast. Its ear twitches, mouth movements and the way it articulates its slimy claws give it life. And while I love this thing’s appearance, why the heck does it look like its completely covered in snot? The thing appears to be a giant bat… with a prehensile rat tail. We get to see quite a lot of this gloriously disgusting monster. If I’m being honest, it’s pretty great and well worth the wait. Plus, it comes to a super chunky gory end.

For his only feature film ever, director Ralph S. Singleton did a great job. I really enjoyed this movie. The story is very linear, easy to follow, but still very satisfying.

Overall this was actually considerably better-paced, gorier and more exciting than I had remembered (having last seen this in the 90s). The monster looks great and it all really holds up!
3 people found this helpful
A. RoseReviewed in the United States on February 14, 2019
3.0 out of 5 stars
Turns a wonderful story into just another monster flick
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This is adapted from a short story by Stephen King. Unfortunately, the people responsible for adapting this one did not do a very good job. The original King story was a horror tale that provided a standing commentary on evolution and how it can go tragically awry when influenced by man, whether intentionally or not. This film has taken the background of this incredibly nuanced story and turned it into simply another gory monster flick.
In an old textile mill in New England, a drifter named John Hall finds work running a picking machine. The mill suffers from a very bad infestation of rats, and the owners must clean it up or have it shut down. So, during the week-long 4th of July closure, Hall and some of his fellow workers are assigned to clean out the basement area. During their labors, they make the astonishing discovery that there are actually several levels of this basement, and the bottom one holds a horrifying secret.
David Andrews, a character actor who has made appearances in many hit television series, stars as Hall. Kelly Wolf co-stars as his friend and possible love interest, Jane, and Stephen Macht appears as the sadistic mill foreman, Warwick. There is also a character that was not in the original story called The Exterminator played by Brad Dorif, and it is quite obvious that this weird, quirky part was created just for him. The acting in this is actually good, but the script has its problems. There is no premise, no cohesion to a storyline, and no comradery among the cast, even when their characters are supposed to be getting along, which is seldom. Most of the time they are required to simply stand there and shout obscenities at one another, when they are not being torn apart by the very fake looking monster. Of course, as a simple monster movie, it does do the job. There is enough stage blood spilled to keep even the most avid gore fan happy. So, if you come to this one looking for nothing that will do the original King work justice, then you may not be disappointed.
5 people found this helpful
TA SparksReviewed in the United States on January 31, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
Suprisingly bad.
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I hate to say it but this movie was just plain bad. Casting was okay but the acting was was overdone and the movie was very boring. The action all happens in the last 20 minutes. This is a bad movie even if I was basing it solely on 80s standards. My least favorite Stephen King book movie.
4 people found this helpful
Jeffrey YoungReviewed in the United States on December 31, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Entertaining Stephen King monster movie
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The critics were not enthusiastic about GRAVEYARD SHIFT when it came out in the theaters in 1990. It didn't seem to make much of an impact at the box office either. But since then appreciation of King's unique subterranean, giant mutant, carnivorous bat seems to have grown.
Stephen King tries to be an all-around horror auteur. Yet fans and near-fans equate King with horror tales of the paranormal as underscored by one his most popular books and theatrical adaptations, THE SHINING. Yet King shows he is quite versatile with sci-fi horror such as, IT, which featured an extraterrestrial sentient monster in somewhat paranormal settings, and the science fiction, THE STAND.
Here in GRAVEYARD SHIFT King offers us a no-nonsense, straightforward, what-you-see-is-what-you get, mutant horrifying monster yarn. King's short stories are often overlooked by the mainstream reading public.
Like many of his writing creations, GRAVEYARD SHIFT takes place in the state of Maine.
King's depiction of his home state, Maine, is a two-edged sword. While the King books and movies bring Maine into the national spotlight, it's often not in a delightful, touristy, shining way to attract tourists. Nay, for those Maine citizens who wish to keep outsiders to a minimum lest Maine turn into a northeastern California, King's books are a godsend. Watching any King movie set in Maine is designed to keep you from ever becoming curious about visiting much less relocating.
If America's vision of the Deep South is one of backwardness, persistent grinding poverty and impoverishment, misery and general unhappiness, then King's Maine is of little doubt the North's version of a Deep North, still rural and mired in the past and stuck in modern economic stagnation and slow collapse.
Even a lifelong Maine denizen might cringe at the degraded vision of backwoods Maine in GRAVEYARD SHIFT.
The movie is set in the fictional Maine rural town, Gates Falls, which bears a long, deep past long forgotten and best forgotten. It was once a prospering mill town, one of several along a fictional Maine river that originally powered the milling machines during the time of manufacturing and economic growth of the North in the first half of the 19th century.
In 1990 all that is forgotten history by the economically depressed remnants of Gates Falls and its even more depressed remaining citizens, many now scrambling to find employment in a rural town that hovers on the edge. The encroaching river has eroded into the long-abandoned, local, once-stately cemetery, turning it into a rotting, corroded, collapsing eyesore that no one ventures near.
The intruding river has also contributed significantly to the deterioration of the recently re-opened Bachman Mill. For those in the know, Bachman is an eye-wink. King once used the surname, Bachman as a pseudonym in his earlier books. The movie does not explain who re-opened the mill or why but the movie's beginning makes it quite clear that was a gross mistake. The large, wood constructed mill is seriously dilapidated, run-down, and collapsing in places in the lower levels. Worst, the mill especially the lower levels are swarmed by near infinite numbers of rats.
The mill is run by a psychologically unstable plant manager, Mr. Warwick, played by actor, Stephen Macht, from the 1980 sci-fi movie, "Galaxina", which starred the doomed Canadian actress and Playmate of the Year, Dorothy Stratton, who would be murdered by her estranged husband in Los Angeles later in 1980.
Warwick is the odd character who outshines the main protagonist and anti-hero, John Hall, a college-educated drifter, through Warwick's intense, eye-glaring, psycho-mental character acting. Warwick is the mill's plant manager. Yet Warwick also functions as a department manager, supervisor, and foreman, all in one. He performs a full day's shift as plant manager but comes back at night to work the graveyard shift as supervisor and foreman. He even oversees the clean-up crew in the deteriorated basement. The crew shortly discovers an even lower basement level, one that once held the equipment to derive river water power to turn the mill's machinery.
The re-opening of the long-closed Bachman mill disturbs lowest level denizen, a giant mutated carnivorous bat with rat-like characteristics. The ugly freakish creature from out of hell metaphorically, had been dining on corpses the beast exhumed from underground of the deteriorated cemetery. The encroaching river's path was slowly going under the cemetery, loosening and washing away the underground foundation dirt, making it easy for the subterranean creature to burrow to coffins and drag it back to its lair, the long-abandoned, warehouse-size underground level.
The creature begins to prey on individual graveyard shift personnel whose absences go unnoticed.
Warwick recruits a special basement cleanup crew for the shutdown week of July 4th, offering double-pay as incentive. This includes the nice-guy drifter, Hall, his new girlfriend who was once the plaything of Warwick, who is slowly becoming what seems to be more unbalanced, even insane, at that point.
The cleanup crew discovers the large trapdoor to the bottom level. When they all investigate it, including Warwick, that is when the nasty, foul, giant mutant hellbat creature ambushes them. The monster quickly kills one of the crew then starts after the others. At this point Warwick finally goes insane and berserk, after the two men with him meet violent, deaths from the creature. In the small mountain of human bones in the bottom of the lowest level, Warwick has fallen into it. When Hall and his girlfriend try to rescue Warwick, he awakes and attacks both of them, beating Hall mercilessly and knifing his girlfriend to death.
Warwick runs off and into the monster. Rather than panicking and running, Warwick decides a la Viking to fight it out to the death with the creature, using his Buck sheath knife. Of course the creature kills Warwick. Hall awakens and runs after Warwick running into the creature still dining upon Warwick's remains. Hall beats a hasty retreat and finds his way back up into what was once thought the bottom basement which holds the picker machine, a large, grinding machine that swallows up bales of raw cotton into its multiple, grinding shears.
The bat mutant monster follows Hall to the picker machine level and almost succeeds in grabbing hold of Hall.
Hall succeeds in activating the picker machine which catches the long rat-like tail of the giant bat creature. The machine pulls the shrieking bat monster through its grinding shear machinery, shredding it until finally the picker jams and stops. Hall stares at the horde of rats that descend to consume the beast's shredded bloody fragments in the machine.
The last scene before the credits is a new sign outside the mill's front office, reading, "Help Wanted", with a secondary sign dangling beneath, "Under New Management". That is surprising since at the movie's beginning, a state inspector had written a report advising the mill's closure although Warwick bribed the man with two hundred dollars to delay the submission of his report.
A shout-out goes to a supporting character, the still young, Brad Dourif who gained his fame playing eccentric and sometimes crazy characters. He plays the role of a rat exterminator under a veneer of a crazy dude but who often shows the sane, professional side of himself while discussing his profession. The near psycho façade Dourif's character sometimes displays is supposed to be the result of really bad things he saw while serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Later in the movie, Dourif's character is killed while exploring underground in the collapsing cemetery when a concrete stone sarcophagus coffin slides back and crushes him.
zestyReviewed in the United States on January 5, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
Really Boring
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The plot was confusing, and there was too much dialogue that was repetitive. Not worth a watch.
11 people found this helpful
free_laborReviewed in the United States on March 12, 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
Typically bad 80s/90s King adaptation, for completists only
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Back when they were adapting anything with Stephen King's name on it, this was ranks towards the bottom of the pile.

Lead actors pretty uncharismatic, subplot is boring, ends with glop-o-la monster getting pulled into a cotton… grinder? Villain boss (Macht) not bad, only interesting actor in it beside Dourif. Brad Dourif (Child's Play, Exorcist 3) lays it on thick, but should have won an Oscar for his Vietnam rat story/monologue. Only Jeffrey Combs can deliver terrible, terrible, b-movie horror dialogue with as much conviction as Dourif.

King kills all the women. Only black character is treated badly by everyone. A lot of hypermasculinity, although it's not generally portrayed in a good light. All the local townies are "@$$holes."

In other words, for nostalgia buffs and Stephen King completists only.
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