Dennison Ramalho’s feature debut The Night Shifter is a macabre and maniacal tale of morality and vengeance from beyond the grave. Heavily steeped in fantasy and Brazilian superstition, the film is a harrowing but humorous story. The Night Shifter marks Ramalho’s feature film debut after several shorts, including the ‘J is For Jesus’ segment in 2014’s ABC’s of Death, and recently celebrated its US premiere at the 2018 Fantastic Film Festival.
Like a long-form episode of Tales From The Crypt Dennison Ramalho’s The Night Shifter is the story of a good man who makes bad choices and must suffer the consequences. In the face of a bleak existence, Stênio feels justified in his actions, unaware that he has begun a journey down a one-way street into darkness. Sure, he could call the police, but what are they going to do when he tells them that ghosts are trying to hurt his children? Yeah, he could board up his doors but what good is that really going to do against an entity, unrestrained by a physical body? Alone in a fight he has no chance of winning, Stênio can only watch his sanity slowly slip away as the forces around him grow stronger and stronger.
“Like a long-form episode of Tales From The Crypt Dennison Ramalho’s The Night Shifter is the story of a good man who makes bad choices and must suffer the consequences.”
Stênio (Daniel de Oliveira) works the night shift at the morgue, and somehow the real darkness of his story exists in the daylight hours. His marriage is balanced on a tight-wire of resentment and disdain, and no one respects him. He wanders through his life like a lost soul, unable to find a resting place, but Stênio has a secret he has never shared with anyone: He can talk to the dead.
While carving open cadavers, Stênio must make small talk with the souls of criminals, jilted lovers, and terrified spirits undeserving of their fate. These poor, unfortunate souls share their deepest, most personal secrets with Stênio because what’s the use of holding onto them any longer. They’ve already taken them to their grave, right? But Stênio makes the mistake of abusing this information for personal gain and welcomes a vengeful spirit into his home. It’s a dangerous thing to speak a dead man’s secret and Stênio’s life begins to spiral out of control as he struggles to protest those closes to him from a force he is powerless against.
The visual effects of The Night Shifter are a big part of the film. Stênio is surrounded by bodies that have all been visited by a unique death. Some are simple hearts. Others, victims of gun violence and violent protests. One even has it’s spine mysteriously ripped from the body… All are great showcases of the film’s practical effects and in a film riddled with body parts and cadavers, that’s exactly what I’m for. That said, there were some interesting choices made to digitize the faces of these cadavers when they talk with Stênio. The odd re-creation of the faces undercuts the genuine artistry of the prosthetics and I wished they simply opted for voice-over in these conversations.
A supernatural tale through-and-through, The Night Shifter boasts some pretty tense scenes of the children hiding from creeping shadows and encroaching spirits. Unfortunately, like some of your favorite ghost-in-the-house stories, The Night Shifter falls victim to the cat-and-mouse back and forth that serves up the scares but does little to progress the plot forward. Each moment is perfectly creepy, but I never believed the main villain would actually hurt anyone so the stakes, up to a point, were lost in these moments. Overall, The Night Shifter is a fun supernatural story with great special effects and twisted sense of humor.
“Overall, The Night Shifter is a fun supernatural story with great special effects and twisted sense of humor.”
Dennison Ramalho’s feature film debut The Night Shifter celebrated its US Premiere at the 2018 Fantastic Fest September 22, and is expected on Shudder in 2019. Check out all of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantastic Fest coverage here!