M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! Running every day through October, this list will culminate with the best horror film of the year announced on October 31st. Some of these films can be found in theaters—others have unfortunately only seen the light of day On Demand, DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films yourselves. I’ll also provide a “Worth Noting” secondary film suggestion in a separate post. These are films that stood out or just missed being on the list by a skosh—a little extra for those who can’t get enough horror.
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2018 and September 30, 2019 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released this October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like DOCTOR SLEEP or ZOMBIELAND 2 just yet.
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
#11 THE NIGHTSHIFTER
THE NIGHTSHIFTER combines some awesome elements from some great films, yet still manages to do what has come before in interesting and creative ways. Part ghost-story, part-family drama, THE NIGHTSHIFTER is something wholly unique and definitely worth your precious time. Released on Shudder on May 23, 2019, here’s my review of THE NIGHTSHIFTER! Available on SHUDDER!
THE NIGHTSHIFTER (2019)
aka AMONG THE LIVING
Directed by Dennison Ramalho
Written by Dennison Ramalho, Cláudia Jouvin
Starring Daniel de Oliveira, Fabiula Nascimento, Bianca Comparato, Marcos Kligman, Annalara Prates, Marco Ricca
Combining elements of THE SIXTH SENSE with THE FRIGHTENERS and POLTERGEIST, THE NIGHTSHIFTER is filled with moments heartfelt, heartbreaking, and heart jolting! From a technical level of practical effects to the intricacies of a nuanced script and wonderful acting, this one has a lot of fun comic book aspects, but never forgets to be downright scary and dangerous.
Stenio (Daniel de Oliveira) works the night shift at the local morgue. He enjoys his job and his solitude, though his wife hates the smell of death he brings home from work. But Stenio has a secret—he can talk with the newly deceased. Most of the time, they want Stenio to finish some kind of unfinished business, but Stenio has vowed to never be swayed to do so, because the requests will never stop once he takes care of one. This leads to a lot of nagging corpses who pull and tug at Stenio’s heartstrings and sanity to help them. Meanwhile, Stenio’s wife is having an affair while he is at work with a local butcher. When a new corpse shows up on the slab that is a little too close to Stenio’s home, he can’t help but be swayed to help the corpse reach some kind of resolution. But of course, one good deed only leads to more troubles for Stenio and soon, the forces of darkness descend upon Stenio’s house and children.
I’m leaving a lot out of that synopsis because I don’t want to spoil this unconventional, unpredictable horror treat. There is a real sense of horror and deadpan comedy at play here that is a tough thing to pull off. This is definitely gallows humor and I think you have to have a sort of twisted sense of humor to appreciate it fully. It’s less cartoony than a BEETLEJUICE or THE FRIGHTENERS but deals with a lot of the same themes such as the dead not realizing they are dead and the dead refusing the let go of their lives among the living. Director Dennison Ramalho keeps everything grounded in some sense of reality, giving consequences to reckless and selfish actions. Still, this is a film that will have you chuckling at the absurdity of the situation, despite the fact that everyone is taking things so seriously. It also helps that actor Daniel de Oliveira does a great job of playing the stoic and burdened Stenio who can’t seem to catch a break no matter what good deed he tries to do.
On top of wonderful ideas, script, performance, and execution, THE NIGHTSHIFTER sports some truly amazing effects. I think the film uses practical effects. I’m almost 100% sure of it. And if it is, damn if they aren’t the best effects I’ve seen in years. The way the corpses’ faces move and emote are truly alien and unique. It is that uncanny valley effect, where something that looks so immobile and lifeless begins moving unexpectedly. Despite the fact that this is an effect involving the faces of the dead, the fact that only the eyes and mouth are moving gives off an effect that is truly unnatural and managed to send a shiver down my spine more than once in this film. There are also a lot of well-orchestrated effects sequences involving the haunting of Stenio’s home that are pulled off with the same sense of creativity and technical wonder. Again, I don’t know how they achieved all of this, but this truly is horror movie magic.
Hailing from Brazil, THE NIGHTSHIFTER once again proves my theory that international horror is where a lot of the good horror can be found. I think it is because things feel more culturally genuine, the techniques are a bit more experimental and rudimentary (less polished), and the actors aren’t chosen from WB or reality shows. THE NIGHTSHIFTER is a fantastic example of getting everything right and the result is a horror film that will chill you in ways you never imagined.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#11 –THE NIGHTSHIFTER
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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