Stênio is a morgue attendant who can speak to the dead. Every body that winds up on his slab during his night shift has what is likely to be their final conversation before they go to the grave. As the film begins, this is already old news to Stênio, and part of his routine.  The conversations are usually casual, with the dead initially unaware of their situation. We find out through one interaction that there are rules regarding Stênio’s particular situation, though we don’t know how he knows. He is not meant to use any information told him during his interactions, or he ‘’will be jinxed’’. These first scenes are great and show a lot of promise; who knows where this premise will lead? The answer is: to a fairly standard ghost revenge story.

Stênio’s family situation is also well set-up. He’s the main provider of his wife and two kids. His son is having some behavioral trouble at school and his wife Odetepretty much can’t stand him anymore. Is it the smell? Soon enough he’ll break the rules, prompted by his unhappy home life. That’s actually when things start to get less interesting.

Fabiula Nascimento is great as Odete, giving the best performance in the film in my opinion. Our lead protagonist is strangely unsympathetic through most of the film. Stêvio walks around with the same constant look of worry on his face all the time. He’s fully aware of the supernatural influence at play yet seems hesitant to accept it and deal with it head-on once things suddenly and obviously start getting dangerously serious around him.

This is director Dennison Ramalho’s first feature-length film after making the great horror shorts Love from Mother Only and Ninjas, which were both screened at Fantasia. I was looking forward to this. He’s a talented filmmaker who takes his horror very seriously. It’s just unfortunately that once the set-up has passed then The Nightshifter becomes a fairly routine genre film. Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with that. The undiscriminating horror fan will find exactly what a horror film is supposed to be here, but not much more. Other than the premise, there isn’t much originality to be found, nor much actual tension or effective scares. Though it’s not for a lack of earnest trying.

Ramalho has said that he is planning on developing the idea into a T.V. series, which would at least be a good way to explore the possibilities of Stêvio’s ability and the possible mythology behind it. The last shot of the film is more unconventional than most of its running time and does point to a possible continuation. There’s promise in the idea of The Nightshifter.

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