European colonizers brought any number of things with them to the New World (you know, death, disease, forced religious conversion), but in the 2020 release, Cemetery Of The Lost Souls (O Cemitério das Almas Perdidas in Brazilian Portuguese), a Satanic priest was the unexpected arrival to the South American landscape.
Told in alternating plots between two time periods, we learn the story of how Satanic acolyte Cyprian (Renato Chocair) saves the ship from sinking and guaranteeing a safe arrival to the shores of Brazil. The Christian priests on board don’t completely understand the bargain they’re making and soon end up serving Cyprian. The colonizers’ first encounter with the indigenous inhabitants leaves nearly all of the “Indians” (sic) dead, save the beautiful Ayra (Allana Lopes). She is kidnapped and held against her will as Cyprian’s slave.
Father Joaquin (Ciao Macedo), still mostly loyal to his Christian religious teachings, wants to save Ayra — both her soul and her person. He risks his life to contact a second indigenous tribe, a group of alleged cannibals, who come to free Ayra from her captors. Cyprian realizes he and his small band are outnumbered, so he once again makes a deal with the devil to fight the warriors who have come to free Ayra. With supernatural strength, they slaughter the indigenous warriors. A badly injured Joaquin tries to escape with Cyprian’s “dark book” of Satanic spells, but only rips away a few pages, casting his own spell that keeps Cyprian and his ilk inside the cemetery stronghold, forever limited to geography and night. Cyprian revives a dying Ayra with his own spellbound blood, forcing her to continue to live as his slave.
Fast forward 500 years or so, and a troupe of traveling carnival performers set up their show in the village nearest the cemetery. The handsome Jorge (Diego Garcias) senses something familiar about the area, but can’t put his finger on it.
In a well-crafted and filmed flashback/dream sequence, Jorge sees a beautiful indigenous girl, but also the massacre of her people. We eventually connect the dots that he has some sort of connection with Ayra. His locations change throughout the dream, but the same verdant field always gives way to the same cold fortress tower, where he jumps either to his death or to his escape from something sinister. The film eventually culminates with its final battle, pitting good against evil. Jorge makes a sacrifice that turns the tides toward “good,” and Ayra gets a measure of revenge against Cyprian.
Whether due to writing or filming, the plot is a bit convoluted and complex. The beginning of the film has little-to-no dialogue, and the cuts between colonizer-era shots and the current-day segments are not well indicated and inconsistent throughout the film. The lush Brazilian scenery is highlighted to its fullest effect, and some of the special effects are really quite good. There does seem to be a high “gore factor,” with lots of fake blood and lingering camera shots on macabre death scenes.
Cemetery Of The Lost Souls was part of Fantaspoa, which ran for free on the streaming platform Darkflix, from April 9 to 18. All film screenings are geo-blocked to Brazil, with additional details available at www.fantaspoa.com.