To put it lightly, The Nightshifter (original title Morto Não Fala) is really out there – it’s wild. Ticking all the boxes to be both a hipster’s favourite and cult film, The Nightshifter is world cinema/foreign language, has a distinct colour palette, and features a morgue nightshifter talking to the corpses during his work… and the corpses talking back.
So, to start off, there’s been a deadly attack between rival football fans and the victim is in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, but the driver wants to grab some food instead. Two minutes later, they’re in the morgue and Stenio (Daniel de Oliveira) is on the night shift. Once Stenio’s colleagues have left, he begins to talk to the dead, asking them what happened, and the corpses asking where they are. This ‘skill’ is of no surprise to Stenio, but is to The Nightshifter’s audience, establishing a hilarity of sorts.
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When corpses brought to Stenio appear to be gang members from São Paulo’s underworld, the real trouble begins as he finds himself key to a criminal investigation, much more closer to home than he could have imagined. During the day, Stenio is a family man, though his wife and kids do not seem overly keen on him nor his smell from work; he comes him reeking of deadness, would you give him a hug and kiss?
As Stenio, Daniel de Oliveira is exceptional in adapting to different situations with his character. He plays it ice cool when taking the heart out of a corpse, but then gives all of his physicality, blood and emotion when all hell breaks loose and The Nightshifter transcends into full-on supernatural horror. Dennison Ramalho, the director of The Nightshifter, has fantastically crafted a creepy movie that will make its audience laugh, be sick, be scared and probably look to a career change…
Visually, The Nightshifter is rather bleak, but taking the context into consideration, would one really expect an Avengers: Endgame colour palette? Confusingly, when the ‘dead’ respond back to Stenio, the faces of said dead appear to be of a CGI nature – really bizarre, but slightly funny. When Stenio conducts his work, however, the gruesomeness is extraordinarily explicit. Seeing a brain pushed back inside a victim’s head, the skull closed back together, and then the skin pulled back over like a sock, The Nightshifter can be as wild in its visuals as it is its story concept. On a lighter note, the location visuals are terrific. The location of São Paulo is wonderfully captured throughout, and the suburban elements support the family aspects of the film.
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The genre transitions within The Nightshifter are not only some of the highlights present, but flaws also. Beginning, more or less, as a black comedy, The Nightshifter finds itself as a crime mystery, which is great. The flaw, however, is that it feels too routine and formulaic when fully transitioned to the house-based horror with the possessed character attacking the family etc. Children being targeted to be killed in a film can feel cheap, but whether that notion is acceptable or not is simply down to the viewer. In a gruesome, 18-rated film like The Nightshifter, there is contemplation among the viewing audience that there’s a great possibility of a child being seriously harmed. Like the murdered wife, should the slaughtering of children be a revenge trope in modern cinema?
Crossing genres, The Nightshifter may seem applicable to different audiences. Though this can be championed, there is a feeling that many expecting a two-hour crime mystery with an out-of-this-world element will feel conned to an extent. Ultimately, The Nightshifter feels like it will sit well within the hipster foreign cinema section and will eventually develop a cult fandom.
The Nightshifter makes its premiere on Shudder UK on 23rd May.