When an abandoned textile mill is reopened, several employees meet mysterious deaths. The only link between the killings is that they all occurred between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.—the graveyard shift. The sadistic mill foreman (Stephen Macht) has chosen newly hired drifter John Hall (David Andrews) to help a group clean up the mill's rat-infested basement. The workers find a subterranean maze of tunnels leading to the cemetery—and a giant bat that hunts at night. In the end, Hall is able to kill the giant bat when it gets caught in the grinding wheels of a cotton picker and crushed to death.
The movie was filmed in the village of Harmony, Maine at Bartlettyarns Inc., the oldest woolen yarn mill in the United States (est. 1821). The historic Bartlett mill was renamed "Bachman" for the movie, an homage to King's pseudonym, Richard Bachman. The interior shots of the antique mill machinery, and the riverside cemetery, were in Harmony. Other scenes (restaurant interior, and giant wool picking machine) were at locations in Bangor, Maine, at an abandoned waterworks and armory. A few other mill scenes were staged near the Eastland woolen mill in Corinna, Maine, which subsequently became a Super Fund site.
The film received poor reviews from critics, and currently holds a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Graveyard Shift was a modest box office success for Paramount. The film was released October 26, 1990 in the United States, opening in first place that weekend. It grossed a total of $11,582,891 domestically.