Wide World of Horror: ‘Porto dos Mortos (Beyond the Grave’)

Porto dos Mortos (Beyond The Grave)


Written by Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro
Directed by Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro
Brazil, 2010

There’s a fundamental problem with a film that eschews internal coherency for existential pondering. Such is the state of affairs with Porto dos Mortos, a 2010 Brazilian horror effort. The film starts off yearning to be existentially important and finishes hoping that it has proven that it is an existentially great film. Most cinephiles will tell you that the existentially great films are great not because of their willingness to be existential but because of their willingness to simply be. It’s not a highfalutin concept mind you, it’s the simple matter of a movie being as true to itself as it possibly can be. Yearning to be accepted as existential flies in the face of a film being true to itself. Porto dos Mortos feels and plays as false as the notion that Hayao Miyazaki isn’t Japanese.

With the film being described as decidedly false, that should say volumes about the acting in Porto dos Mortos. It doesn’t matter if the actor being discussed is the lead, Rafael Tombini, or Marcos Guarini, as a weird tribal character. Top to bottom the cast of Porto dos Mortos never fails to deliver an obvious, and see through performance. The characters in Porto dos Mortos aren’t real because the actors don’t make them come alive. They are always acting for a camera, and acting at the camera as loudly as they can. In this case loud doesn’t mean that the actors are yelling at the camera, rather it means that they are making sure the camera takes note of their acting. The acting in Porto dos Mortos is of the sort of bad that it belongs in a cheaply made horror comedy. But, Porto dos Mortos isn’t a comedy, it has no desire to be a comedy, and that allows the atrociousness of the acting to be all the more visible. Unfortunately Porto dos Mortos hangs its hat on its acting, and that’s one hat rack that doesn’t stay standing.

The way that Porto dos Mortos plays out, it invites thought and rumination. This plays into Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro wanting audiences to view his film as a thinking man’s existential horror film. Horror fans will undoubtedly appreciate the effort put forth in trying to make an existential horror film. Appreciation does not equal liking though, and it would not surprise if a lot of horror fans came away from Porto dos Mortos unimpressed. This Brazilian horror film is a decent effort, but effort only gets a film so far. In the end Porto dos Mortos is too cheap and bereft of actual substance to warrant much thought. And in a film that wants its audience to do nothing but think, that’s a recipe for disaster.

-Bill Thompson

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