Receiving its world premiere at this year's Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Brazilian writer-director Dennison Ramalho's The Nightshifter brings horror fans back to those all too familiar settings of the cemetery and the morgue represented in films like Phantasm and The Beyond, with a dash of more contemporary classics like The Devil's Backbone and The Orphanage.
Night shift work, particularly anything like working in a morgue, is probably not going to hold much appeal to mere happy folk like ourselves, but for enterprising morgue worker Stenio, not only is he seeing dead people, but he can also speak them too. The complexity of his condition hasn't really endeared him to his long-suffering wife Odete, and a local bakery owner soon becomes her focus of release. Coupled with the defiance of his two young children and the fact that his clothes tend to bring home the aftermath of all that blood and cleaning after looking after the cadavers, things aren't going particularly well. Things begin to get worse when Stenio, suspecting his wife is having an affair, implicates the bakery owner in the death of a local gangster and he and Odete are killed as a result. Before long, the consequences of the killings of innocents are coming back to haunt him tenfold..
The Nightshifter generates a spookiness which fans of Guillermo Del Toro will pick up on from the get-go. It's the sort of film that you might expect Bruce Campbell to remake, as the screwiness of Stenio's own paranoia creeps in as the film builds to its chilling climax and we could sense that a more humorous approach to the material would make an equally enjoyable American version.
The make-up and gore effects are effectively rendered and the CGI is more subtly coordinated than in some American releases, but it is the skill of the film-makers and the style of this Brazilian gem that should enable it to find an audience out of the festival and domestic circuit. Some great performances help to heighten the context of the piece, particularly from the two child actors playing Stenio's children.
THE NIGHTSHIFTER / DIRECTOR: DENNISON RAMALHO / SCREENPLAY: CLAUDIA JOUVIN, DENNISON RAMALHO / STARRING: BIANCA COMPARATO, DANIEL DE OLIVEIRA, CAUA MARTINS / CERT: TBC / RELEASE DATE: TBC