Another great Fantasia Int’l Film Festival has come and gone. If you didn’t make it to Montreal this year to catch some of the genre programming, know that you’re not alone. I too missed out corporeally. But that’s an easier pill to swallow for me since I was able to cover the fest remotely via screeners. Now, despite the darkened screens in Montreal, I am keeping the Fantasia torch lit. How? you ask. With more reviews! Like this one for the Brazilian Portuguese – language film, The Nightshifter!
Stenio seems like a born loser at first blush. He works the graveyard shift (aka – the “nightshift”) at a morgue as a lowly assistant. His wife disrespects him and despises him. His son curses at him. The bakery where he drinks a few shots after work won’t extend him any more credit. (yeah – i guess bakeries are also bars in Sao Paulo?) And he’s flat broke. Maybe all of his troubles stem from his “gift” and the psychological traumas that they must cause. You see, he can speak to dead people. Dead bodies open their eyes and talk right to him. When he uses one of the dead’s secrets in a revenge scheme that leads to a couple of murders, he becomes cursed. And one particular spirit may just kill his whole family if he can’t find a way to stop it.
The Nightshifter is genuinely terrifying at times. The speaking bodies are done with an ‘uncanny valley’ CGI effect that is really unsettling. At first it seems like a Justice League mustache type of situation but then it persists across different characters and different voices and the confusion adds to the creepiness of it all. The film is chock full of clever and scary details, sets, and supernatural attacks. Especially once the vengeful spirit comes for Stenio and his family. Stenio’s absolute need to protect his kids against the relentless, unstoppable onslaught sends the stakes sky high. Those kids are innocent! Why would the spirit try to harm them!? We (humans) expect rules even in the face of a haunting no matter how absurd that logic is. When there appear to be no rules, we are left grasping for any semblance sanity, just like Stenio. His plight becomes a nail biting race against time once it becomes clear that he’ll soon lose everything and everyone if he can’t undo his mistake. The story scrambles forward in horrible lurches that barely give the viewer a moment to catch a breath. Considering the evil shows up early in the film’s runtime and hits the ground running, the pace of the film is nearly exhausting. In a good way.
The Final Cut: The Nightshifter is a relentless story of a malevolent haunting that delivers some unique and effective scares.