Indie Flix: Beyond the Grave [Porto dos Mortos] (2010)

It’s the end of the world and a lone police officer (Rafael Tombini) travels the desolate roads intent on bringing a body hopping serial killer to justice. He enters a hovel and takes on the occupants dispatching some with the last of his ammunition and taking up a katana to finish the last. He methodically sorts through his dossiers looking for the jacket on each of the men he dispatched and fills out reports all from the classic car which serves as his home and office while he chases down the killer who has evaded him since before the end. The country sides are sparsely populated by survivors while returners, zombies, plod through the fields and alongside the roads a constant reminder of the hopelessness and desperation of what the future may hold. Against this stark backdrop documentary filmmaker Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro paints this picture of evil against more or less good.

Shot down by a ruthless killer, the officer garners enough strength to kill the madman only to have him possess another body. Soon after the world ends he continues to pursue the killer from incarnation to incarnation all the while having to avoid the undead, deal with violent criminals, and try to ensure the safety of isolated survivors he encounters. Grim as this film is, it is not without levity. When the officer picks up a pair of young survivors (Ricardo Seffner and Amanda Grimaldi) and the young man carries on a conversation with himself due to the officer’s reticence. The cop has a gun and the boy has a bullet. It’s kismet because the cop’s out of bullets and the boy doesn’t have a gun. As it turns out that bullet is meant for the Dark Rider, as the killer has become known and the officer has no intention of losing the trail again. 

Beside the youths, there is another small group of survivors that struggle against the madness of the new world as the Dark Rider and detective come to grips with each other for the last times. The first encounter leaves Tombini injured and the Rider a few henchmen short. Nursed back to health by the leader of a trio of survivors he heads back into the lion’s den no matter the risk to himself or others. He too is possessed, not by a demonic spirit but by duty to complete his job even though the world has come apart. 

The film almost plays out like two separate stories especially with the harsh shift midway through. The pacing and action in the latter half are quite different from the former. The first part is meditative, almost cautious in pace while the second part hurtles toward the finale at breakneck speed. No doubt this will discourage some viewers when they feel bogged down in the beginning but patience and endurance are virtues which will serve well when watching BEYOND THE GRAVE. It is a good flick though some hoping to see the usual zombie action will be highly disappointed. It seems that zombies, or returners in this case, are much more powerful as a backdrop than as a main attraction after the latest glut of gutmunching. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good zombie flick but with so many out there now there’s more trash than treasure. Recently it’s been proven time and again in films such as DEAD WEIGHT, THE BATTERY, and THE DEAD are vastly better when the human struggle and interaction take precedence as the shambling hordes shift back to the scenery.

From the opening shot to the closing frame it pays tribute to the genres that influenced it. There are tones of spaghetti western with the camerawork and the hero. The officer is a lone man-neither good nor bad-on a quest for duty or vengeance, maybe both. He is injured to the point of death and is brought back to health to continue his mission like officer Max Rockatansky. In a nod to the post apocalyptic genre built by the Aussie’s he tools around in a hot rod watching the ravaged landscape rush by through the windshield. The small group holed up in an abandoned school holding out against an endless horde of undead is a nod to Romero. It is this milieu that gives rise to the overall affect of BEYOND THE GRAVE, or Door to Death. Planted in the middle of it is Randal Flagg. No shit. There is graffiti sprayed on the school that says “Beware of the walking dude” and the character of the Dark Rider bears more than a passing resemblance to the Dark Tower figure. Check it out. It’s free on Netflix Instant and it’s worth a watch. It is in Portuguese but has English subtitles.

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