Thursday, July 3, 2014

BEYOND THE GRAVE (2010) movie review

Beyond the Grave (aka Portos dos Mortos) (2010) d. Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro (Brazil)

Set in “Another Time, Another Place,” we are introduced to a mysterious black-suited, bespectacled, two-fisted ex-cop known only as “The Officer” (Rafael Tombini) who crosses paths with a young teenaged couple, a sardonic youth named Shooter (Ricardo Seffner) and his mute female companion Nina (Amanda Lerias). We learn that Officer is in pursuit of The Dark Rider, a body-jumping demon straight out of Fallen, The Other Side, or The Hidden (minus the slimy alien worm) that possesses each mortal vehicle until it expires and then bounces to the next and nearest. Continuing in this fashion, the Rider, the Ultimate Evil, is immortal and it falls to our triumvirate of antiheroes to somehow take him out.

From the land of Coffin Joe comes an indie horror/fantasy loaded with big ideas that it manages to back up with imaginative staging and calculated twists on established archetypes. After a slew of zombie outings that follow a disparate band of survivors tramping across the desolate apocalyptic landscape (The Walking Dead, The Battery, et al), it’s somewhat of a novelty to find oneself in Mad Max territory again, with a black muscle car chugging its way down the lonesome, corpse-strewn highway.

Pinheiro, who wrote, produced (with Isidoro B. Guggiana), and directed, unfolds an epic, Stephen King’s The Stand-like yarn that invigorates established tropes such as the cannibalistic undead with creative concepts like psychic bullets and bone-stealing demons. There are times when his microbudget seams show, such as the lackluster fight scenes and flashy-though-extraneous editing techniques that dance back and forth between seconds, but it’s clear that the young auteur has more on his mind than just cheap thrills and casual splatter. A disembodied radio DJ droning on about his previous life and beloved sister lost provides equal amounts of exposition and atmosphere (a la Iggy Pop in Richard Stanley’s Hardware), while the Rider’s strange band of followers evokes snapshots from Sergio Leone and John Ford.

Back by a solid soundtrack of electric guitar stings and thumping basslines, various mythologies and characters drift in and out like smoke, building to a mystical and suspenseful stalking climactic sequence in that concludes perhaps more matter-of-fact than some might hope, but confounding expectations has been the name of the game all along. This is no easy time-waster – even for those accustomed to subtitles, attention is required; little is explained, and much is left to the viewer to parse out for themselves.

But even if he never achieves the full-on rough n’ sexy vibe of an El Mariachi or Six-String Samurai, Pinheiro wears his heart and brains on his sleeve in this strong feature debut, with a multitude of film festival laurels attesting to its quality. Shambler fans owe it to themselves to give this one a spin.

Beyond the Grave is available now on Netflix Instant in US and Latin America

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