It often astounds me how some very bad films achieve distribution and other, more deserving films, sit on the shelves waiting for a distributor to find them. In the case of ‘Porto Dos Mortos’, I was doubly astounded to find out that the ‘FrightFest’ panel had overlooked it for inclusion in the festival, despite the fact that the film has received a plethora of seriously enthusiastic reviews from critics and festival audiences across the world.

Which is not to say that ‘Porto Dos Mortos’ doesn’t have its faults, but it’s an enjoyably well-directed, well-acted and (particularly in some of the dialogue) refreshingly thoughtful and sharply written horror-ride that deserves your attention.

A man in black – The Officer – steps out of his car and approaches a building in the middle of the woods. The building is scrawled with sinister graffiti and the body parts of clothes-store mannequins are hung grotesquely on the walls, their pink plastic flesh spattered with blood.

The Officer quickly kills the three men who are inside the building but is surprised by a fourth who comes at him with a samurai sword and is considerably harder to put down. It’s the kind of mano-a-mano gun vs. blade combat we’ve seen so many times before but it’s an interesting and well-choreographed scene despite its familiarity and not only reveals The Officer to be less-than-a-superhero but also neatly prepares us not to take any of the main characters fates for granted.

The Officer, bloodied and battered, returns to his car and clatters out a report on an old-fashioned typewriter. He adds the report to a tall cardboard-box full of criminal files sitting in the trunk of his car. On the car radio, the seemingly ever-present DJ talks about the end of the world and describes the story of his sister “the last woman on Earth” who was murdered by a mysterious hitchhiker, “a rider with dark eyes, cowboy boots and raincoat.”

The Officer starts up his car and recommences what is obviously an eternal journey down an endless highway, the staggered yellow lines in the centre of the tarmac becoming swallowed up beneath his wheels like some relentless end-of-the-world morse code.

He passes three gore-splattered figures staggering in drunken single file on the edge of the road. They are zombies, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a zombie-movie. The zombies, although a real and ever present lumbering threat, are practically incidental to the danger that is eventually to come.

There is always sunlight. The skies are always blue. Some of the earlier scenes seem almost tranquil which makes the events of the story even more unsettling. We are used to nightmares screaming at us from the shadows, but not out of a sparkling-clear day.

Director Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro and his creative team have pulled off a pretty clever trick with ‘Porto Dos Mortos’, taking the apocalyptic road movie scenario we all know too-well and giving us what we expected while throwing in enough visceral surprises to keep us off our guard. There are some problems with pacing, especially in the centre of the story when a flashback-style ‘interlude’ feels strangely disjointing, and there’s a cowboy-steampunk familiarity to the villainous ‘Dark Rider’ (especially the costume design) that diminishes the character’s visual impact – although a gun that looks like it’s constructed of twisted bone and sinew and carried in a holster that resembles burned flesh was a terrifically evocative detail, making me think of Clive Barker’s ‘Books of Blood’ colliding with Richard Stanley’s ‘Dust Devil’.

The photography is excellent. The musical score pushes all the right buttons. There’s a particularly gross zombie-being-fed-organs-in-a-bathtub sequence and a stylish nod towards black magic / Santeria which lifts what should have been a hackneyed ‘summer of the living dead’ story into an interesting demon-conjuring dimension.

Watch out for ‘Porto Dos Mortos’ and if you get the chance to see it, don’t turn it down. It is a gore-encrusted diamond of a film and a terrific example of high-class Latin American horror cinema.

Movie Review: Beyond The Grave (Porto Dos Mortos)
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About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at