‘Night Shift’ Review: Creepily Good Times at a Rundown Motel

Night Shift is a spooky, but not too scary, movie made for fans of psychological mysteries and movies about haunted locations and lives.

Night Shift is an entertaining motel-based horror movie, now streaming on video-on-demand.

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Released on March 8, 2024, Night Shift is a movie that uses familiar horror tropes to support a good mystery with an even better cast. Read on to find out exactly why Night Shift is a highly entertaining watch for fans of multiple subgenres of horror and thriller movies.

What is Night Shift About?

Phoebe Tonkin holds a knife as Gwen in Night Shift (2023).
Gwen isn’t doesn’t take any chances when she hears spooky sounds coming from an unoccupied room in the All Tucked In motel.

Night Shift stars Phoebe Tonkin as Gwen, a woman working her first shift at a rundown, isolated motel. Gwen is taking the night shift, 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., where she will be working alone until the motel’s owner, Teddy (Lamorne Morris), returns in the morning. Gwen is nervous, and it quickly becomes clear that she is on the run from someone. But whomever she is running from might end up being the least of her worries when she discovers that the All Tucked In motel could already be home to something malevolent.

If that description sounds vague, that’s because the enjoyment of Night Shift is largely based on its mysteries. Everything becomes clear as Gwen’s story unfolds over the course of the night, but giving away any hints will spoil the fun. What can be said is that Night Shift combines multiple horror tropes—haunted motel, stalker, killer escaped from institution, etc.—to create a mystery that ultimately veers toward psychological horror territory.

Night Shift Review

Gwen checks a security monitor in Night Shift (2023).
Familiarity isn’t a bad thing when it comes to genre films. Actually, it’s often expected to a certain level.

As soon as Night Shift begins, it feels like we’re in familiar territory. The isolated motel with taxidermy animals littering its office is reminiscent of Psycho (1960). The idea of a motel with a haunted room may give viewers flashes of The Shining (1980). A news broadcast in the background mentions an escaped killer on the loose which brings to mind countless slasher and stalker movies. Night Shift is a genre movie that proudly displays its influences, making itself feel welcoming to fans of these types of films. Thankfully, Night Shift has really good execution to go along with its familiar themes, so the movie remains entertaining throughout even if you start to pick up on where it’s headed earlier than expected.

Tears roll down Gwen's cheeks in Night Shift (2023).
Phoebe Tonkin carries Night Shift extremely well.

The most obvious area of excellence of execution in Night Shift starts with the cast. Phoebe Tonkin is great as a protagonist with lots of secrets. Whether Gwen is interacting with a newfound friend, an apparition, or an astoundingly rude guest, Tonkin plays the part in a way that is expressive without giving too much away. Gwen treads a fine line of emotion which is needed for the final act to play out effectively, and Tonkin navigates the line well. It’s also a role where the main character is alone most of the time, so if you’re not engaging with her as a viewer, then the movie will fall flat. Night Shift certainly does not fall flat. It is dynamic thanks to Phoebe Tonkin.

Teddy smiles in Night Shift (2023).
Lamorne Morris always steals the show in whatever movie or show he is in.

Helping Gwen along the way are Teddy and Alice, played by Lamorne Morris and Madison Hu respectively. As Teddy, the owner of the motel, Lamorne Morris appears in the beginning of the movie and then is seen briefly a few times throughout the rest of the film. Morris is fantastic, and he’s such a light, bright presence that when he leaves, it makes the movie feel more tense and gloomy by comparison. As for Alice, she is a guest at the motel whom Gwen confides in when things get overwhelming, and Madison Hu plays Alice as a wonderful foil for our main character. Hu portrays innocence and naivete without appearing clueless or helpless.

Alice listens in Night Shift (2023).
Madison Hu’s roles in Night Shift and The Boogeyman (2023) show that she should be in lots more horror films.

The story in Night Shift is also well done. As stated above, the script, written by the China brothers (Benjamin and Paul China), is essentially a psychological horror movie that uses many familiar tropes as part of its central mystery. Using familiarity to draw the viewer in but to also provide a fair amount of misdirection is a good idea, and it works for the most part. There are a few red herrings that naturally don’t go anywhere, but the problem is some of them never feel like they’re going anywhere. There are at least a couple of story tangents that lead to dead ends without providing much more than a momentary scare or a weird comedic scenario. The main mystery itself isn’t particularly groundbreaking either, but it’s performed well and comes to a satisfying conclusion despite a few bumps along the way.

Alice stands alone in the motel in Night Shift (2023).
Night Shift uses its setting well, feeling claustrophobic most of he time, but also feeling dangerously expansive in climactic moments.

When it comes to the horror aspects of Night Shift, those are used sparingly and at the right times. There are some nicely effective jump scares used to punctuate tense sequences, and there is even some blood and violence in the later parts of the movie. Night Shift isn’t a terribly scary movie, but it does find a good balance of tension and frights overall. Don’t expect Night Shift to keep you up at night, but do prepare for a good jump or two while you’re watching.

Who Will Enjoy Night Shift?

Gwen screams in the parking lot of a motel in Night Shift (2023).

With so many horror genres represented throughout Night Shift, it’s a little difficult to say for sure who will or won’t enjoy the movie. Fans of supernatural and psychological thrillers, especially those that take place in one location, will like Night Shift the most. Fans of movies like Identity (2003), Watcher (2022), and The Innkeepers (2011) will almost certainly find something to like in Night Shift.

Night Shift is currently streaming as a digital rental on VOD services including Amazon Prime Video.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.