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Review: THE NIGHTSHIFTER (2018) – Fantasia Film Festival 2018

Dennison Ramalho garnered considerable attention among horror fans in 2003 with his brutal short film LOVE FROM MOTHER ONLY. However, instead of capitalizing on this, he vanished from sight until 2008 when he resurfaced as the writer of Zé do Caixão/Coffin Joe’s EMBODIMENT OF EVIL. Now a full ten years and another couple of shorts later he’s finally delivered his first feature, THE NIGHTSHIFTER, (Morto Não Fala in its native Brazil).

Stênio (Daniel de Oliveira) works in the city morgue. The high crime rate means he’s constantly busy, but at least he has someone he can talk to. Stênio can talk to the dead, an ability he’s had as long as he can remember. It’s also something he’s wisely never acted on, treating what they tell him in confidence. However, when one informs him that his wife is cheating on him, all of that changes. But acting on forbidden knowledge puts not only his but his children’s lives in jeopardy.

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THE NIGHTSHIFTER is a film that works on multiple levels. Most obviously, it’s an intense supernatural horror story. The dead are not happy that they’ve been used and reach out for revenge. In that regard, it’s a solid thriller about meddling in things mere humans should leave alone. Granted, it relies a bit too much on music cues and stingers to make us jump at times, but it’s still quite effective.

On another, it’s a reflection of the cycles of violence Brazil is locked in. One, as destructive to the country as the film’s events are to the character’s lives. It’s thankfully not made in a heavy-handed manner, but it’s there. Just as Stênio’s actions start a chain of violence and revenge, so does the crime, gang violence and violent reaction from the police tear apart what should be a much more prosperous and successful country.

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As expected, there are plenty of effects in THE NIGHTSHIFTER. They range from autopsies to a talking head in a jar and beyond. Thankfully they’re done with practical effects and quite effective ones.

At 104 minutes, THE NIGHTSHIFTER does run a bit long and occasionally lose its focus. But it’s still worth catching if it comes your way. It just made its debut at Fantasia 2018 with more festival dates to come.


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