Set in 1999 in a small hospital in Arkansas 12 Hour Shift follows junkie nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) who is making extra money selling organs of dying patients whose demise she speeds along. But, when her cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth) misplaces a kidney – which local gangster Nick (Mick Foley) was going to buy – Mandy finds herself having to acquire a fresh one during a 12-hour shift. Chaos descends when Regina insists on helping in lethal ways and a wounded murderer (Arquette) breaks loose.
We spoke to actor David Arquette about filming the comedy horror in an abandoned hospital and what it’s been like working as an actor for 30 years…
How did you get involved with 12 Hour Shift?
My wife, Christina Arquette, and I work with HCT Media Lot. They’re incredible filmmakers and they found the script from Brea Grant – she’s got such a great voice as a director and as a writer. She wanted to do this sort of thriller about those folklores about people stealing organs. You know… usually, it’s in Las Vegas or something and you wake up in a bathtub full of ice and your liver’s missing!
So they did this story of this underground world where nurses are stealing people’s organs and it spirals out of control. Angela is an incredible actress who’s the lead and she has this character who’s an addict whose world is spinning out of control and she’s just going with it. We wanted to do this, crazy little movie based in the Nineties!
Where did you film 12 Hour Shift?
We filmed it in Arkansas. Jordan and Matt, the two of the producers at HCT Media, and Tara Perry have a studio down there. We took over this abandoned hospital. My wife is so funny she came with Lysol, wipes and gloves and masks… and this is before any pandemic, so she was prepared!
It was a strange world where we were living in this hospital for a few weeks… actually on one of the bottom floors there were some people. [My co-star] Mick Foley (who’s an incredible wrestler and an incredible actor in this film) went down and we visited with some of the guys who had just gone through some bad accidents. He gave one [guy] the shirt off his back, which was his wrestling shirt – so that was nice of him!
12 Hour Shift has a great mix of horror and comedy…
It’s really unique storytelling and this world [Brea Grant] has created is kind of trippy. There’s this really wild vibe to it. Chloe [Farnworth] is a really incredible actress and [her and Angela] together just start going down this rabbit hole of trouble… When I was younger there was a really obscure film called Eating Raw Wool, that was this really dark comedy – I like the balance!
What is it about horror and comedy that work so well together?
It’s sort of my life in a nutshell! I live my life from bizarre encounters to ridiculous embarrassments [haha]. I don’t know, life’s complicated, life’s beautifully tragic, beautifully romantic, beautifully exciting and suspenseful… When you find a movie that captures some of those elements, it’s really when the magic starts happening.
How do you normally choose a project to work on?
It’s strange, Hollywood has this way – if you’re in it long enough (and I’ve been acting for 30 years), you kind of go through these roller coaster rides. Sometimes it dries up and then you’re just looking to work and stay active, and at other times you can be a little more selective about what you do.
Ultimately, whether it’s film, TV or plays, you really want to connect to the audience. I’ve always done different stuff, I’ll do a horror film or a little Indie comedy or then some kids movie, so I never take all that too seriously and I kind of bounce around.
[Sometimes] you’re trying to set up a project for years and who knows if they’ll ever become realities or not! Or [sometimes there are] projects where you really love the script and you have loved it so long you’re now too old to even play the main character, so you’re playing like their father or something! It’s the cycle of life. It’s those moments like that where you just sit back [and think] ‘oh, gosh, look at this world!’.
You play a tank top-wearing convicted murderer in 12 Hour Shift. What was that like to play?
I was going across the country wrestling all over the place and I was in relatively good shape at the time, so I was like ‘okay, let’s utilise it, put a tank top on!’ I wanted to get the badass drifter dangerous bad boy cliches in there. I’m all about male exploitation [haha]. With wrestling, it’s like a giant male beauty pageant… but with violence! I’ve embraced that side of me and I like to work out!
You also have a producing credit on 12 Hour Shift…
It’s really Matt Glass, Jordan Wayne Long, Tara Perry, and my wife Christina, that produced it and were really hands-on. It was really amazing to see all of them do their magic. Matt Glass does incredible music in the film too!
What is it about horror films that appeal to audiences?
I think the audiences, in general, are getting so smart and filmmakers are understanding that, and so are storytellers who are including these very complex worlds. I think that’s why television is getting so exciting for different genres in general.
I love genre films. I love going to the conventions and meeting the fans. I love when you do something that resonates and sticks with them for years. Or characters that they feel like they really love. It really is an honour to be able to act and be a part of this business and be able to entertain people and hopefully get their minds off some of this madness for an hour and a half!
You’ve been in big horror franchises like Scream, and smaller, independent films like 12 Hour Shift – what’s your experiences been like between the two?
I like independent filmmaking and the kind of stories that they tell within there. They’re also typically, very character-based, and a lot of people are there working just for the love of the art. But then when you have more of a budget and people, and the luxury of time… that’s really wonderful too.
It really starts to become about working with really wonderful directors, writers, producers and actors, and just being able to meet these different people. My favorite part about acting in general is that you live all these different lives. You come to embody these characters and you’re trying to tap into what’s real about them and give them backstories, which sometimes connect with yours in a way. Just going through all that, you start realising stuff about yourself and why you do certain things and how can you improve yourself or not take things personally or blow up or whatever. It’s a long-winded way of saying that I love acting. I’m really happy to be able to do it and I really thank the fans for watching!
What do you have coming up next?
I have some fun movies coming out! Spree (that will be out in the UK soon) and Doctor Bird’s Advice For Sad Poets are both really fun independent films that I did last year.
I have a Zoom later with a director that’s got an incredible script and it’s another beautiful indie film, so hopefully we hit it off! Hopefully it will be the [next] thing, but it’s not real for me yet.
That’s the crazy thing about acting. It’s like you’re constantly almost fishing! It’s like ‘okay, let’s see, we got over here?! How’s that fishing hole over there?!’ [haha]
FrightFest Presents and Signature Entertainment present 12 Hour Shift on Digital Platforms on 25 January. Read our FrightFest review here.