Cemetery of the Lost Souls Movie Review
Written by Shane D. Keene
Screened at Fantaspoa 2021
Written and directed by Rodrigo Aragão
2020, 134 minutes, Not Rated
Screened at Fantaspoa 2021
Carol Aragão as Bridgitte
Renato Chocair as Cipriano
Diego Garcias as Jorge
Cemetery of the Lost Souls opens with everything you need to inform you that your time would be better spent playing with faux-holographic stickers from a box of Crackerjacks. I mean, I really wanted to love this one, and the trailer makes it look marvelous. I think it’s mostly because a teaser doesn’t require a good story to entice you. And there’s no other way to look at this thing than from the top down. The same guy—Rodrigo Aragão—wrote and directed it, and, well, those are the two most troublesome aspects in this production full of problems.
If you follow my film and book reviews, you know I always look for something positive to say, even in bad movies. The problem is, this isn’t a bad one, it’s one even the ‘80s would have rejected. But enough of preliminary trash-talking. Let me tell you about the things I did like about it:
Now let me tell you about the things that made it agonizing.
Throughout, everything comes down to production quality, or lack thereof. The story is pointless, disjointed, and unexplained. I could find no logic. In a small nutshell, it follows the narrative of three young people, portrayed rather woodenly by Carol Aragão, Renato Chocair, and Diego Garcias, telling a story which began back in the dark ages about a group of evil Jesuits. Why Jesuits? Some historical significance or meaning to the movie? No, just a “why not?” decision that could serve a good purpose if it only had a discernible backstory. So, pointless evil monks go wild and viciously murder and commit unspeakable atrocities, almost all implied and off-camera, but I never could make sense of the goddamn thing. Eventually, they are cursed to live under the cemetery forever, but I’m not sure how or why. If director/writer Aragão was going for subtle ambiguity, he passed the exit way the hell back there and left the highway at obscurity. The movie passes back in forth through time, present and dark ages, but also on occasions, between the present and the recent past, effectively giving the viewer two different sets of alternating timelines and confuses the fuck out of them.
It opens with a shot in a stupidly dark room—the reason for this is revealed quickly—where a blind priest (I think?) is writing in what is obviously an evil book, a demon behind him whispering words. I’m talking about the opening scene. Because it’s the exact point the viewer will begin to doubt it. The CGI (or etch-a-sketch or whatever) is insulting. It is so terrible your Saturday Morning cartoons are better rendered and presented. The scene lasts for about a minute worth of meaningless, because why be appalled for thirty seconds when you can be so for a minute, then segues unsmoothly to where the evil Jesuit slit’s some dude’s throat and steals the book. I never discovered what the blind guy was writing, or why. I think his official role was blind-man-with-scary-book-intro, because it never fucking explains who the “dude” was, why he had the book, or how he came by it. It is a blatant patch presented without any context. It only serves to show us how this evil, terrible actor came by the book.
Enough. Of. This
Not going to beat it to death for too long. I wanted to, but after all is behind us, what’s the point if I tell you the acting is subpar, the CGI—or whatever it is—is the worst I’ve seen in a modern feature, and the lighting and practical effects are high school grade at best. An ambitious kid with a ten-dollar bill could have done a better job. They “pulled off” their effects by just not showing them to you. Trying a Flannery O’Connor approach to making the violence happen offscreen. But where Flannery did it to obvious and impeccable effect, this one fails miserably.
But here’s the windup. I’ve had fun making jokes about this film, and I hope you enjoy this review for what it is: good fun with a bad flick. But when all is behind us and the curtains are falling, I can’t recommend this film at all. I would rather watch reruns of Duck Dynasty than spend one more minute in the Cemetery of Wasted Time.
This film is part of Fantaspoa, which runs for free on the streaming platform Darkflix, from April 9th through the 18th. All film screenings are geo-blocked to Brazil, with additional details available at www.fantaspoa.com.
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