My Dead Ones, directed by Diego Freitas from a script he co-wrote with Gustavo Rosseb, follows 20-year-old David (Nicolas Prattes) as his mind slowly begins to crack. See, the reserved film student prides himself on being an almost invisible observer, documenting everything via the camera that is practically glued to his hand. But, an encounter with Jônatas (André Hendges) creates desires and impulses previously foreign to him.
With these new feelings, David decides to become more active in his daily recordings. So, he resolves to kill his neighbor. But, the next morning, the old lady is alive, making him breakfast. Is he imagining her alive, or did he dream of the murder? Unable to decipher reality from the fantasies playing out in his head, David plots more kills. But what is driving him to do such heinous acts?
My Dead Ones is the feature-length debut of Freitas, who has cut his teeth on a handful of shorts. It definitely shows as, at nearly two hours, the thriller does not offer a smooth ride to its conclusion. Rather, it sputters in fits and starts, being hypnotic and dull in equal measure… until the end, that is. The final 30 minutes of the movie are a glorious culmination of subplots and character arcs that, rough though it might be, absolutely make this a fractured journey worth taking.
“Unable to decipher reality from the fantasies playing out in his head, David plots more kills.”
Part of the reason the movie becomes dull is thanks to David himself. Mind you, not the actor portraying him, as Prattes is fantastic in the role, but how he is written. By design, David is a quiet, shy character who intentionally leaves people at arm’s length, including the audience. By playing his cards so close to the vest until the end, it is impossible to invest in him or his actions. It is one thing to not like David; he is a killer after all. It is something else entirely not to care about any of his actions because the writers never allow the viewer to understand what makes him tick.
There are plenty of great examples throughout the history of motion pictures utilizing an unreliable narrator while still allowing the audience to understand their motivations, at least to some degree. That is mostly absent here, so the character feels more like a cipher than a fully formed person. But again, Prattes overcomes those issues and commands the screen as much as possible.
So while the writing is hit or miss, Freitas excels as a director. My Dead Ones is visually stunning, utilizing a clean or grittier palette depending on David’s current mindset. It is a beautiful, subtle way of showing the degradation of his mental state. The colors are also quite impressive, with several scenes bathed in either yellow, red, or fiery orange. Such visual prowess helps maintain audience engagement, even when the characters are unable to do so.
My Dead Ones is a rocky road through a trauma-filled and fractured mind. But if one can get through the boring parts and do not mind being kept a distance for most of the movie, they’ll find a well-directed, if meandering thriller anchored by an outstanding lead performance.
"…Prattes overcomes those issues and commands the screen as much as possible."