Brazil’s own The Nightshifter (2018), directed and co-written by Dennison Ramalho, is the loudest, most nightmarish screwball comedy ever to traumatize an audience. It runs the gamut from general disquiet to almost overwhelming visceral terror. I left my screening feeling like I’d just lost a fistfight. This is a relentless movie.
Stênio (Daniel de Oliveira) is a morgue attendant with the ability to communicate with the dead—not the sad, unheard The Sixth Sense (1999) dead, but the eerie, otherworldly Homeric dead, the sort who know secrets and prophesy about them. He learns something from a corpse about his wife (Fabiula Nascimento), which sets off a series of events and bad choices that involves at one point and with perfect movie logic a literal spine that’s gone missing from a cadaver. (The spine turns up. I’m not telling you where.) And the filicide subplot is a laugh riot. (It isn’t.)
I haven’t seen a director move this deftly among different kinds of horror films—haunted house, demonic possession, slasher—since Stanley Kubrick in The Shining (1980).