Shudder has become the home for all things horror and macabre. The streaming services is a must for all horror fans. One of the most exciting aspects about the services is the new and exclusive content they get each and every month. The Nightshifter is the latest Shudder Exclusive film to hit the streaming service. How well does The Nightshifter stand up among the slew of horror films available on Shudder?
The Nightshifter Synopsis
Stenio works the graveyard shift at a morgue in modern day Brazil. When we first meet him, Stenio has already discovered his amazing gift. He has the ability to speak with the dead. The dead tell him things that no one else can hear. This burden is mentally exhausting for Stenio, not to mention the already long hours of working at a morgue. This creates a strained relationship between Stenio and his wife Odete. Stenio soon discovers this ability to speak with the dead has consequences. Using this ability for his own benefit, Stenio is soon haunted by the demons of the dead he once spoke with.
What I Liked
The Nightshifter is very well directed film in terms of style and acting. Dennison Ramalho allows the characters and their motivations to dictate the action. In most cases lesser horror films use jump scares as their foundation for a scene. Ramalho instead uses his character’s to guide the scene. Stenio’s journey is what drives every scene in The Nightshifter.
Stenio is portrayed by Brazilian actor Daniel de Oliveira, whose previous work includes mostly television work. Oliveira gives an honest performance in the role. We understand his motivations and his eventual regrets. Both Ramalho and Oliveira understand how the character needs to be portrayed for the audience to side with him. The character rides a fine line on the moral spectrum. The film crafts itself in a way that the character of Stenio is always relatable, even if the character himself feels like his a morally bad person. It’s a hard line to ride, but Oliveira hits those notes perfectly.
What Could Have Been Improved
The first act of The Nightshifter will hook audiences immediately based on the world in which it creates. Stenio’s ability to speak with the dead in a crime ridden city sets up for a supernatural crime drama. Unfortunately this is not what the film turns out to be. The film instead becomes a formulaic supernatural possession film. The actual plot of the film has very little to do with the basic premise of the film. Stenio’s ability to speak with the dead is almost an unnecessary addition to the film. His ability is used to kick-start the plot, but the revelations that he discovers could have been resolved without the use of the supernatural.
The film reverts back to the tropes that we have seen in countless American horror films in the last decade. A recent example of a very similar plot was this years The Curse of La Llorona. Both films contain very familiar plot points and themes. In the case of The Nightshifter it plays the themes in a much more subtle fashion than that of La Llorona. This is where I give an edge to The Nightshifter in it’s ability to be subtle with some of the subtext of the film. It is unfortunate that these moments are few and far between.
The Nightshifter has a very strong first act, a surprising turn in the second act, and a very paint by numbers final act. The film is at it’s strongest when it is a crime drama with elements of the supernatural. The first act feels like David Fincher’s Se7en if Brad Pitt’s character was able to speak with the dead. The film uses cheap scares and generic storytelling instead of taking a risk on a genre story that we have never seen before.
The Nightshifter Final Thoughts
Overall The Nightshifter is an exciting and interesting premise, but fails in execution. The film undergoes an entire tonal shift in the second act and never recovers. Ramalho is a promising director, and the overall atmosphere is commendable. The ever present sense of dread is always present and the direction of the actors elevates the lackluster story. The Nightshifter is a film in which I would recommend as a conversation starter. It is a film that’s allows audiences to conceptualize a version of the story that we never got. The Nightshifter is a great premise, but takes a misstep in it’s execution.
The Nightshifter begins streaming on Shudder beginning May 23rd.
Overall Score 2.5/5