A zombie apocalypse movie from the heart of Brazil, Beyond the Grave (or, Porto dos Mortos, if you're so inclined) takes a shoestring budget and puts together a film that looks like an epic horror adventure. The road-tripping film uses its surroundings very well, and the biggest success here might be just how much the film makes it look like the world has ended.
Hopping from place to place and covering several violent characters, Beyond the Grave is primarily centered on a man in black played by Rafael Tombini, whose image will probable evoke memories of Robert Rodriguez' films. There's certainly a bit of El Mariachi in the violent-but-heroic character, who moves through the film with a chip on his shoulder and an eye for revenge. We learn bits about the character - the film is heavy on monologues that deal with past hurts - but mostly we just need to understand that he's a lone wolf who will take down those that oppose him.
The opposition, as is generally the case on a zombie apocalypse, is twofold. Sure, there are bloodstained zombies roaming the countryside, but the biggest challenges come from some possessed killers who reign terror upon the few remaining humans that our nameless lead shows compassion for. This makes for a pretty interesting switch in expectations in the middle of the film, but also leaves the film feeling a bit disjointed as it moves on. I kind of feel like it forgets about them zombies for long stretches of the film, .
Special effects are one of the biggest worries I had about the film, as much of the creature effects are underwhelming. The undead that are presented range from simple and effective to completely over the top, but none of the creatures really evoke much of an emotional response. The possession side of the plot is handled very simply, possibly due to the film's low budget, but I was much more interested in that part of the film than its few zombie stragglers.
The most interesting thing about Beyond the Grave, to me, is probably the tone of the film. There are plenty of moments that feel like they were inspired by Rodriguez or Tarantino - especially when the director chooses to let music take over the film's soundtrack while a character does something cool - but the film never really takes off as a fast-paced adventure or a "something's around the corner" style shocker. The film moves rather slowly with its emotions, and it seems like the goal was to really create a sense of emptiness and dread that fills this world gone mad. There are a lot of things about the film that remind me of Stephen King's work - characters who can't find the normalcy they seek, discussions about hope, etc. - and I like where the filmmakers heads were at in this regard. I'm not sure their message got to me in every scene - perhaps something was lost in translation, or perhaps the dramatic impact of some reveals just misfired for me - but I was certainly intrigued by the film's bleak perspective. I definitely enjoyed the film's departure from gore and mayhem in this more introspective moments, which looked great against the run down settings of the film.
I'm not entirely sure what I think about Beyond the Grave on the whole. Parts of the film seemed to leave me wanting, while others had me very interested in the world that these filmmakers created and the plight of our one-note hero. I know I'm going to be thinking about the movie for a while, but I worry that my thoughts will sway more toward what it missed than what it said. Regardless, this is certainly an interesting addition to the horror pantheon, and I do recommend that horror fans - particularly those with a taste for the apocalypse - keep an eye out for this one. It's the work of filmmakers who have something unique to offer us.
For more information in Beyond the Grave, be sure to check out the film's official site or its Facebook page. In the meantime, here's the trailer for your perusal.