The morgue; usually a gloomy and grim environment for most. If the dead speak to you, however, it may tone things down. No, no; not through signs and omens; if they literally opened their eyes and mouth and spoke to you. We discover this different mortuary atmosphere in “The Nightshifter (Morto Não Fala),” straight out of Brazil, which made its world premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, hosted by its director Dennison Ramalho.
Stênio (Daniel de Oliveira) has a special gift since he was young: the dead speak to him. Not figuratively; they actually converse with him. He’s never told anyone, but he constantly talks to the recently deceased as they lay motionless on his slab at the morgue he works at. He sees a lot of bodies, living in a dangerously violent neighborhood in Brazil. He discovers the true causes of death and secrets that the dead are supposed to take to the grave. One day, he uses information from a cadaver to exact revenge on a man who is ruining his life. Unfortunately, by openly using a secret that was given to him by the dead and breaking an unwritten code, Stênio unknowingly cursed he and his family in sinister fashion. Now his children are in danger of being slain at the hands of menacing spirit and he’s not sure he can stop it.
“The Nightshifter” has a fantastically put-together script. The first half of the film had me keenly interested and entertained with the numerous twists and turns of the storyline, the interesting conversations between Stênio and the corpses, and the impressive, gory special effects observed throughout the autopsies. Daniel de Oliveira brilliantly portrays a reserved, anti-social who prefers to discuss with the dead than the living, despised by his own wife for rarely being around and his constant stench of death staining their home. Based on a short story, this is director Dennison Ramalho’s first feature film and he does a great job at assembling a sequence of interesting secrets of the dead, one which will ruin his life forever, within a layered plot of betrayal and violence.
Unfortunately, the second half of the film embarks on a much slower pace and drags on for too long. Although peppered with some interesting lugubrious moments, I also grew tiresome of the back and forth bickering between the vengeful spirit and Stênio. In addition to this, our main protagonist makes some questionable decisions. After having seen the malevolent entity nearly takes his kids’ lives, he still decides to go in for work and be away from them on numerous occasions. Shouldn’t his children be his number one priority? I get that he has always been short on money in the first place, but surely paying his rent is less important that looking over his young ones who are at risk of losing their lives, isn’t it?
Nonetheless, “The Nightshifter” is a remarkable first film from Dennison Ramalho and deserves to be viewed for its intricate storyline, its notable practical effects, and its general morbidity. Perhaps more great things are to come from this director, as “Morto Não Fala” deserves 3.5 stars out of 5.