Jun 14, 2019
Welcome back for another Fantastic Fest review from our good friend Andrew Campbell. He’s been working feverishly to find films playing on streaming services, and luckily today’s feature recently became available on Shudder. He’ll be up in a few minutes with his thoughts, but for a couple other films involving Brazilian film scene, check out the trippy religious parable “The Ornithologist” (Episode #182) and the street-level look at the Roma in Italy in the multi-national “A Ciambra” (Episode #241).
Also, while I appreciate the reminder about reviewing “Raw”, I simply will not be bullied.
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Here we go!
Hello film fans!
Andrew here, back this week with a Brazilian film that made its U.S. premiere at the 2018 Fantastic Fest. AMC-owned horror streaming service Shudder acquired the rights earlier this year and released it in May. Shudder runs about five bucks a month, less if you pay up front for a year, and is a solid investment if you watch horror films with any regularity or want to delve into more of them.
Shudder continues to deliver the goods on three fronts. They have an expansive library of classic horror from the 60s and 70s such as “The Exorcist”, “The Other”, “The Changeling” and other influential films. They’ve got more B-movie horrors from the 80s and 90s than I ever knew existed. On Fridays, cult movie expert Joe Bob Briggs interrupts a double feature of drive-in films providing entertaining commentary just as he and other hosts did back in the hey-day of cable TV. Lastly, Shudder has been ramping up the pace and quality of their new film acquisitions as their user base grows. Along with today’s picture, I’ve reviewed a couple of Shudder exclusives already: “You Might Be the Killer” (Episode #397) and “Terrified” (Episode #404).
Joseph: “Dear Shudder! We love you! Call us! Hugs and Kisses, One Movie Punch!"
Today’s film is “The Nightshifter”, written by Claudia Jouvin and Dennison Ramalho, based on a novel by Marco de Castro and directed by Dennison Ramalho. Stênio, played by Daniel de Oliveira, is an overnight morgue worker in São Paulo, Brazil. He must work in a rough area of the city as the majority of the incoming bodies he autopsies have met their end through gang violence. On the home front, Stênio’s wife Odete (Fabiula Nascimento), has grown resentful of her unambitious husband. He works hard, is by all accounts a good man, loves his wife and their two young boys, but she is unhappy with their lower middle-class lifestyle and her husband coming home smelling like all things death.
The central conceit of the film is that Stênio has an innate ability to carry on conversations with the deceased on his table, though only when no other members of the living are present. This is presented somewhat matter-of-factly during Stênio’s first scene and it’s clear that this is a gift he’s had for a while. It’s never explained how he acquired this skill or if this is the reason he got into morgue work, but the film is probably better for this choice. The movie loses me a little bit in these moments where the dead speak. I don’t know if it’s animatronic, or real actors or claymation for that matter, but the twitchy-eyed dead with their guttural voices just look a little “off” to me. We are given some gnarly autopsies as Stênio dices through the viscera of gangbangers that have succumbed to all manner of grisly ends, but it plays out more as gross-out comedy than true horror.
Before long, Stênio ends up making a deal with the devil. For the first time, he uses information given to him by one his corpse buddies to commission a dark deed that does not go off as planned. The film takes maybe a little too long to get to this point, but then again there is a lot to establish to make the story work. The latter half of the film gets into your standard jump scares with horror scenes that most viewers will have seen before in slight variations.
What makes “The Nightshifter” fantastic?
The film is an amalgam of sorts. It starts out with gruesome body horror before shifting into a dark horror-comedy, though it’s not always clear if the stuff I found funny was intended or unintended by the director. We then get a 30-minute family-drama slash gangland tale, before a lengthy supernatural conclusion with a ghost-story vibe. It all adds up to a pretty clever conceit on paper, but the shifting story tends to drag more often than it delivers on its premise.
“The Nightshifter” (2018) is an uneven tale of life after death that rarely delivers on its ambitious screenplay. Fans of films that feature dark dealings from beyond the grave like “Drag Me to Hell”, or “Sinister”, or “Insidious”, among a laundry list of others, will enjoy this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (on 9 reviews)
One Movie Punch: 6.6/10
“The Nightshifter” (2018) is not rated and is currently streaming on Shudder.
Well, with the podcast about to go on a brief hiatus, I can’t think of a better movie to follow up a two-week production delay than Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”.
Joseph: “Still not reviewing Raw.”
After finally being released in 2018 after nearly 30 years of false starts and development hell, I think we can all wait just a few extra days to find out: Will the epic saga behind this production be the only thing for which it’s remembered or does the movie stand on its own? I’ll see you next time!