The latest Stephen King yarn to make it to the movies is "Graveyard Shift," based on a fairly standard short story from King's "Night Shift" collection that has to do with rats, rats and more - and bigger - rats.
The movie, by first-time screenwriter John Esposito and first-time director Ralph S. Singleton, changes that a bit. It's about rats, rats and more rats - and one big ratlike creature.Where the latter comes from is never explained, though you can bet it has something to do with the graveyard next to the textile mill that is the central place of action.
Bachman Mills, the name being a nice in-joke for all you King fans, is swarming with so many rats you may think you've wandered into a remake of "Willard."
Set during a sweltering July in a small New England town so far into
MOVIEthe backwoods that apparently no one there has yet heard of air conditioning, the mill is run by a sexist brute (Stephen Macht) who likes to rough up women in public and intimidate his employees in private.
Macht affects a Pa Kettle accent and a Sylvester Stallone swagger, bribing a local health official to give him some time to clean up the mill and get rid of the rats so the plant won't be shut down.
For the former, he forces a new employee, widowed wanderer David Andrews, to join several of his already brow-beaten workers in the basement of the mill during a week of midnight-to-dawn cleanup sessions. For the latter he hires crazed Vietnam veteran Brad Dourif, an exterminator who seems to think the rats he's after are Viet Cong infiltrators.
Dourif is a funny touch, doing a wild parody of all those wacked-out Vietnam veterans we've been exposed to in movies over the past decade, but he's really little more than occasional comic relief.
The bulk of the film goes to Macht and Andrews, and, as usual, the villain is infinitely more interesting than the hero.
But the movie itself, despite a few workable gags - and maybe a joke or two that are unintended - is by-the-numbers horror. If you can't figure out every corner the story is about to turn, you've never seen a horror movie.
What Esposito and Singleton apparently had in mind was doing a spoofy B-style monster picture, along the lines of "Alligator" or the more recent "Tremors," two films that managed to be as much fun to watch as they apparently were to make.
"Graveyard Shift" may have been fun to make, but it isn't much fun to watch.
It's rated R for considerable violence, gore and profanity.