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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Beyond the Grave (Porto dos Mortos) 2011

Production Company: Lockheart Filmes Ltda. 

Title: Beyond the Grave

Original Title: Porto dos Mortos

Spanish Title: Más Allá de la Tumba

Year: 2011

Country: Brazil

Certificate: UR (Unrated)

Language: Portuguese with English/Spanish/French subtitles

Genre: Supernatural “road movie”

Budget: US$ 150.000,00 (one hundred fifty thousand American dollars) 

Running Time: 89 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1

Shooting Format: HD/Color

Final copy: HDCam SR 


It's not often that one receives an email from Brazil, in fact I could safely say that it's a distinct first for me. I have had quite a few in the past from a variety of African countries who have kindly advised me on a number of occasions that I have come into substantial amounts of money, apparentley all I have to do is send them my bank account details and the transaction will be swift and easy. As yet the funds haven't shown, but I'm sure that's just a minor banking glitch....

Anyhoo, about the email from Brazil. The message was from Isidoro B. Guggiana, who is the publicist and executive producer for Lockheart films, a Brazilian film company. Isidoro suggested that I might be interested in giving my opinion on a feature film that I must confess I hadn't heard of before now -  Beyond the Grave, or to give it it's original Portuguese title, Porto dos Mortos. See? Not only does this blog provide witty, intelligent and informative scribblings on Sci-fi, fantasy and horror (No, it really does!) - it also provides lessons in developing your multi-lingual skills. Who says that I don't provide a variety of important cultural services?

Isidoro also referred to the movie as "  a very unusual art-house horror", the first-time feature by Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro, who is a director, writer and producer of short and feature films. Sadly, it is quite clear that Davi hadn't worked with anybody noteworthy during his career before Beyond the Grave, just some guys including David Lynch, Phillip Glass and Wim Wenders, whoever the heck those people are.......

Of course I was interested. In fact I was well and truly hooked, together with the requisite line and sinker even before watching the film - It was the chance to see something different and unusual from a part of the world whose horror production quite frankly is something of a blind spot for me. Besides which, I quite enjoyed writing names such as Isidoro B. Guggiana and Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro.....

So what about the non-spoiling plot? Well, in a nutshell....

" In a devastated post-apocalyptic world where the rules of reality are transformed by magic and madness, a vengeful police officer searches for a possessed serial killer. He finds in his way groups of survivors. Some violent, some struggling to get by in this new place full of mystical dangers where humanity seems on the brink of extinction. Shooter and Nina, a couple of teenagers are the first living souls to cross paths with the Officer on his quest for the Dark Rider, a mystical man who has cost the lives of several people. The younglings have lost loved ones to the killer and they seek revenge. Advised by the Officer to let go of it, they insist on being a part of the quest. "

For a quick taste of the film, have a look at the youtube trailer below....

Beyond the Grave (Porto dos Mortos)


Quite frankly, Beyond the Grave is difficult to categorise, which for those who like to have their selective horror-niches complete with the requisite tried and tested step by step formula, that fact alone will quite simply annoy the heck of of them. This is a deliciously enjoyable film which has any number of influences that the director is paying homage to; it is part science fiction, part supernatural, part road movie, part Spaghetti western, part Zombie apocalypse, part horror, part art-house and part Avant-Garde. While we're at it we could certainly find in the movie more specific influences such as Mad Max, Stephen King's Dark Tower series and at at least two specific Sergio Leone productions. These ingredients, under the writing and directing skills of Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro, result in the most exquisite and innovative examples of recent cinema that it has been my privilege to see. 

I will warn you now though. If you are an 'all-action, everything is explained and nicely wrapped up at the end ' sort of viewer - then this film may not be for you. I don't usually read any reviews of a film before writing my own, for obvious reasons, but in this case I thought I would have a quick look. There are numerous positive references to the film, but I wanted to look at a couple of the negatives, because I knew that there would be some that would spectacularly miss the point of what I believe the director was trying to achieve - and boy was I correct. 
Yes, this movie is slow paced on occasion with periods of screen time where nothing appears to be happening, but when I read one particular review bemoaning the fact the "the movie has no sense of humour whatsoever", well I had to chuckle. The same review then went on to make reference to the 'mish-mash' of genres and the director not being able to make his mind up within which particular genre the movie should take place. Deerie me.

It's rather obvious that the director's intention from the start was to was to create an idiosyncratic world, full of vacant areas inhabited by desperate characters who are hanging onto to the very fabric of existence by their fingernails. There is an underlying sadness to both the characters and the post-Apocalyptic landscape that permeates throughout. Yes, anonymous and foolish reviewer, I can see how the humour would well and truly fit into this particular movie. It's a genuine potential Monty Python riot of jocularity.

In regard to the 'miss-mash of genre' comment - Well by chance I had read a review for another film earlier this week where the spoiler strewn piece also found fault with the fact that, in his eyes, the slasher movie in question failed to live up to the recognised procedure of what should happen within a typical film of it's type. He/She evening stating at one point "Everyone knows that a slasher movie should open with a really cool kill......." Give me strength. 

I personally loved (as do many others) that Beyond the Grave was an explicit attempt from the filmmaker to clearly challenge our notions of genre, providing a vision of filming that doesn't want to be contained by the shackles of pigeonholing which some horror fans seem to desire. Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro takes chances with his audiences expectations, and we should applaud that. 

An example of how Davi challenges our expectations of the horror element is how the undead are presented and treated here. I've mentioned before how the current fashion for Zombies one day will drift away, but not just yet it seems as the flagship darling of the Zombie loving brigade (of which I count myself as one) will no doubt say as we kneel at the alter of The Walking Dead TV series. However, Zombies are in real danger of becoming cliched and cinematic carnboard cut-outs, particularly on film - they growl, they shuffle and they chase (in their shuffling kind of way) in an effort to violently eat people - and that's about it.

But in this movie, the zombies have been provided with a sprinkle of 3 dimensional originality. We are asked not only to empathise with their plight but to sympathise too as we watch them interact with each other. We observe them feeding each other for example - ok, they are feeding each other the flesh of the living, but it's still touching! In addition to that we have the officer's ex-partner, now one of the undead and also blind, who is viewed as a figure of tragedy, not a 1 dimensional example of uncontrolled violence. Yes, they are also chilling and violent, but there is a texture to their representation that is truly refreshing to see.

Mention should be made too the the film's cinematography, which is simply lovely. The Director of Photography, Melissandro Bittencourt perfectly captures the landscape and desolation of a world that has drifted over the edge. It certainly helps that the city of Porto Alegre is an incredibly visual city, and I must admit to knowing little about the place. We are treated to a tapestry of different vistas each providing a distinctive post-apocalyptic texture, where we constantly observe the ongoing victory of the natural world over the dying urban world of concrete and steel.

I do need to talk briefly about the soundtrack of this film, it is quite simple a joy. I mentioned earlier that there is a distinct Sergio Leone influence throughout; 'the man with no name' being an obvious one, as too is the fabulous opening scene where the officer confronts some of the Dark Rider's bad guys. Another Spaghetti western-esque influence is undounbtably this film's soundtrack because throughout it we are treated to a an atmospheric delight of musical accompaniment that adds the perfect feel of suspense to proceedings. The song at the end is haunting and beautiful and has genuinely stayed with me long since viewing, in fact I'm listening to it right now as I write this piece of reviewing excellence. The singer's name is Lia Cameira.  The song is written by Felipe Longhi and performed by him and Bruno Fritzen, Felipe Lermen and Gabriel Fritzen. It is truly sublime.

For a couple of samples of the stunning Soundtrack( which includes the song), visit https://soundcloud.com/portodosmortos 

Beyond the Grave is delight of a Brazilian movie that caught me well and truly by surprise. Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro has directed a poetic, dreamlike vision of a place where the lives of the characters that inhabit it are the final gasp of human existence. The landscape is beautiful, the acting is good particularly from Rafael Tombini and Alvaro Rosacosta, and the claustrophobic scenes of horror and violence are perfectly wrapped in a suitably haunting and evocative musical soundtrack. It has thought, integrity and belief behind its conception. Yes, the film is a veritable melting-pot of genres and themes, and it all works. It isn't a genre film, it is multi genre, and that is indeed a good thing. I sincerely hope that there is more to come from these filmmakers.

You're still not sure if you should take my word for it alone? Well don't, because the movie has not only been nominated for a wealth of cinematic awards, it has won quite a few of them along the way - fourteen international awards to be precise. The most recent of which was winning Best Horror Feature Film at the Winter film awards in Nova Lorque in March of this year and also Best Film at the Movie Days/The Dark Zone convention, Germany. 



Beyond the Grave is now available on VOD via Netflix Instant for U.S. and Latin America.

The Official Facebook page for the movie can be found at  http://www.facebook.com/portodosmortosoficial 

The IMDB site for Beyond the Grave is at  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1075642/


All I have to say to finish this piece is simply to warn you.........


 BEWARE OF THE WALKING DUDE

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