Monday, April 28, 2014

Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro's Beyond the Grave

Cody reacts after watching a copy of a Brazilian indie genre-bender provided by producer Isidoro B. Guggiana.

The basic set-up of the Brazilian independent film Beyond the Grave, or Porto dos Mortos, as it's called in its native language of Portuguese, is sort of similar to the backstory of Mad Max as presented in The Road Warrior.

Here, in a post-apocalyptic setting described as "another time, another place", we have Rafael Tombini as a man known only as "Officer". The name we know him by gives away the fact that he was, like Mad Max, a cop before the world fell apart. Also like Max, his loved ones were murdered in that time when the world was on the eve of destruction. But Officer's family wasn't killed by ordinary criminals, they were murdered by someone Officer refers to as the Dark Rider, a supernatural serial killer who has been different people in different times, and who always comes back from apparent death in a new body.

Following the supernatural path, Officer's world didn't crumble due to nuclear war and/or the depletion of natural resources. The world ended when the gateways to Hell were opened wide.

Armed with a gun, for which bullets are hard to come by, and a samurai sword, Officer is always following the trail of the Dark Rider, knowing when he's getting near because the zombies who now walk the earth (Officer calls them "returners") always gather in larger groups in the vicinity of the Rider.

Cruising the yellow-lined roads in his badass muscle car, dressed all in black and wearing cracked glasses, Officer listens to the only radio station still broadcasting, where a D.J. who thinks he may be the last man on earth mixes music with stories of his life and warnings to anyone who might still be out there within range of his signal.

During his neverending search for the Dark Rider, Officer often comes in contact with other survivors, which doesn't usually work out for the best. As the radio D.J. warns, by staying alone you risk going insane, but by being around others you're risking your life. Even if the people can be trusted, you shouldn't get too attached to them, because they might not live for much longer.

Beyond the Grave marks the feature debut of writer/director Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro, who came up with a story that's a very compelling and unusual mix of horror, drama, post-apocalyptic road movie, zombie movie, and revenge movie that doesn't handle any of these elements in a totally typical way.

In addition to the elements that reminded me of Mad Max, Pinheiro clearly took inspiration from the works of Stephen King, in particular The Stand and the Dark Tower series. Officer even comes across some graffiti that says "Beware of the Walking Dude", a reference to King's demonic Randall Flagg character.

Pinheiro and cinematographer Melissandro Bittencourt also shot a really good looking movie, filled with striking images, some awesome shot composition, and great locations.

The actors deliver excellent performances, and Pinheiro allows us to spend time with them get to know them, like or dislike them, sympathize with their plight. This is especially true for a teenage pair that Officer hangs out with for a while, a boy and girl who consider each other their whole world.

My friend and frequent writing collaborator Priscilla is from Brazil, so I've recently become very interested in Brazilian culture and cinema. I've watched a lot of Brazilian movies in the last couple months, and Beyond the Grave is the one that has impressed me the most, a hopeful sign that there are very interesting things going on in the independent film and genre scenes there.

Beyond the Grave is currently available for viewing through Netflix in the United States and Latin America.

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