At last year’s Fantasia Fest I discovered one of my favorite films of 2019 in the searing neo-noir
Mandy (Angela Bettis) is a nurse at a small clinic in Arkansas. She’s got a serious opioid addiction and a 12 hour shift to get through. That would have been hard enough except she’s also part of a shoddily run illegal organ smuggling ring. Plus her hair-brained cousin, Regina (Chloe Farnworth), just lost the newest piece of merchandise. Her boss Nicholas (Mick Foley) is less than happy and so Regina is on a mission to find a new kidney. It’s with this pitch-black setup that Grant throws us into a nightmarish night in 1999 in which everything that can go wrong does. Aside from the crimes and multiple deaths, Grant’s workplace horror manages to feel relatable to anyone who has had to do a double shift that never ever seems to end.
Bettis drives the anxiety-inducing plot forward as the central anti-heroine. Though her actions are undoubtedly evil, Grant does a great job of showing us that an equivalent menace is a medical system that sees people as profit rather than patients. The grimiest moments of the film often come simply from the clinic’s disgusting lack of care and compassion. Farnworth is arguably the film’s true villain. She plots and schemes to murder as many people as she has to in order to get a kidney. But don’t be fooled into thinking you can lay the blame at just one pair of feet;
Nikea Gamby-Turner is the film’s secret weapon as Karen, the only sensible–but far from innocent–person in the clinic. She’s a grounding presence to Regina’s mania; a bright spark of light next to Mandy’s muted acceptance. Gamby-Turner also happens to be incredibly funny. As the tension ramps up to a near unbearable level, she offers a few moments of true relief. It’s the kind of subtly great performance from which genre films always benefit but rarely achieve. She completes the leading trio of Farnworth and Bettis perfectly.
Cinematographer and composer Matt Glass’ brilliant score accentuates the ever-more-nerve-shredding events. Pulsing, pounding, and often aurally off-putting in the best way, it’s the kind of score that perfectly accompanies Grant’s vision and never takes its foot off your neck as you uncomfortably try to find a moment to breathe.