The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Porto dos Mortos aka Beyond the Grave (2010)
I got an e-mail recently from producer Isidoro B. Guggiana regarding his film Porto dos Mortos, or Beyond the Grave for English audiences. Unlike the usual submission though, Beyond the Grave is available on Netflix Instant, which obviated the need for him to send me a copy of the film. Very convenient, right? Also, our friends at Ninja Dixon and Dementia 13 have reviewed this one as well, so you should check them out; and for anyone reading this who speaks Portuguese as his or her native language, Ronald at Dementia writes in Portuguese-- though people who don't speak Portuguese should check him out too, because he covers a lot of stuff that overlaps with our stuff.
Beyond the Grave takes place in Brazil after a zombie apocalypse. We follow a lone police officer, still trying to maintain the law and keep evil from running rampant. He thinks he has a line on a serial killer, but when she and her gang get the drop on him, it's not a good scene. Now his need to stop her is personal as well as professional, and he won't stop until she's dead. But is there something supernatural behind her motives?
I really enjoyed this movie. It wasn't so much a horror film, as it was a mix of horror, western, samurai, French New Wave, Mondo, you name it. It was all thrown in together to make something so complete, yet so completely hard to categorize. I loved the atmosphere, the sets, the performances. The horror elements were interesting too, in that they weren't really there to shock or scare, but more like added to an overall macabre vibe. I don't know if this movie is for everyone, but if you're looking for something outside the norm, this is for you.
Where this might be an issue though, is that it isn't a straight-ahead horror, but in a lot of ways that's how it's being marketed, and that's what the trailer looks like. People looking for a traditional zombie flick won't get that here. Zombies are part of it, but they aren't all of it. In fact, there isn't a lot of traditional horror in this film at all. I don't know if samurai or western fans will like it any more though. I think you just have to take it as it is and see if it works for you.
The Netflix Instant version is in Portuguese with English subtitles. That's something that's great for me, because that's how I prefer to watch foreign films, but I know some of my readers prefer the dubbed version. Again, if you go into this expecting English dialog, you might be disappointed. I think this is a bad thing though, because we're seeing a lot of great horror made in a lot of places-- especially in Latin America-- where English isn't the first language, and if you're turned off by subtitles, you'll be missing some great stuff. Believe me when I tell you, after a few minutes you'll forget you're even reading them.
This film was shot in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and the set locations were fantastic. Abandoned buildings, but ones that looked beautiful. The key is, they were used well too. You can have all the great locations you want, but if they aren't there to provide atmosphere, add to the tension, and make the film look great, they're a complete waste. I had the feeling that they got the most out of every place they shot at. I'd love to see people in the US go into places like Detroit or New Orleans and shoot in some of those abandoned locations the way these were shot here. If you're just going to use quick-split second takes, you might as well be shooting in front of a greenscreen; but Beyond the Grave uses longer, steadier takes that allow us to absorb the locations and appreciate them.
The cinematography overall in this film was great. Whether we had still shots or a moving camera, everything looked really nice. It really plays up to that western and samurai element, because those films lean heavily on cinematography. I think too though that the cinematography gives the horror a different element, because, as I said above, the horror isn't there to shock and scare us, but more add a macabre vibe to what was already a tense and desolate feeling. I don't know if we'll ever see American movies, especially in the horror or action genres, get back to this style of cinematography as opposed to the split-second cuts, but I did like how another Western influenced film, Recoil, had similar longer takes and atmosphere.
The French New Wave stuff is probably the element that would be toughest for people looking for a straight-ahead horror flick to take. In a film like Nipples & Palm Trees, it makes more sense, but when you see it in your zombie film, it's like "whoa, what's this? Why is this kid talking so much? What's the deal with the radio guy?" It disrupts the pacing too, though, again, if you're into that kind of thing like me, it's entertaining and not disruptive. I'm a huge Godard fan, so I enjoyed it.
I know I spent the entire review and didn't mention any of the actors, so I'll do that now. Our hero, Officer, was played by Rafael Tombini, and he had that lone gunman swagger, yet also had a lot of Antonio Banderas in Desperado vibe. There weren't many moments where we saw things happen that he didn't see too, so the film was almost entirely told through him. There aren't a lot of pictures to go with the actors on imdb, so I'm not sure who to hand out the other accolades to. There was a brother and sister couple, with the brother being very Jean-Pierre Léaud, while the sister had no lines yet spoke just as much with her gestures. Then we had a man holed up in an abandoned school with two young people, one of whom is pregnant. All of them were great, but the main man was almost like the local sheriff type, who helps our hero, and he was cool in that role. Then we had our band of villains, who were scary-- though one could make the point that they were playing Native American villains we're used to seeing in old American Westerns. I don't know enough about Brazil to know if they're turning that notion on its ear, or if they're furthering the stereotype.
Because this is available on Netflix Instant, and it's only 88 minutes long-- almost ten minutes of which is credits-- you're not expending a big investment to give it a shot. I really enjoyed it, but I want people to know what they're getting into. If reading my review makes it sound like it's not for you, I'd say get outside your comfort zone and try it; and if you're reading it and it sounds great, go for it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1075642/