Spoilers want you to leave the light on.

I’m always on the fence about slow burns. Taking a long time to build up to something should also give the audience something to explore in the meantime without losing sight of the objective. In the case of horror, most movies will go for the tried and proven jump scare. I found it best when the movie will use the time to go for the slow descent. It’s this way that the audience realizes that it’s not only that we’re taking the time to get to that dark place, we will not have time to get out.

(Credit: Stray Dogs)

The Father’s Shadow is directed by Gabriela Amaral Almeida. She’s been in the festival before when she brought us Friendly Beast back in 2017, but this one is a totally different movie. Dalva (Nina Medeiros) lives with his father Jorge (Julio Machado) and her aunt Cristina (Luciana Paes). They’re trying to get over the death of Dalva’s mother. Almost every description of this film says Dalva is trying to get her mother back from the dead. While that is true, it’s basically a spoiler.

The movie is about grief, and the way it treats the supernatural it doesn’t really make a good fit for the horror genre. This is actually a good thing. Jorge works in construction with a group of other people that are exploited and rarely ever cared for. When he gets hurt, he’s got very little options so instead of reporting it he keeps working until he collapses. Dalva is a young kid, experimenting with witchcraft but forced to take care of the house and her dad. She yearns for her mother to come back, so she hides keepsakes from her aunt Cristina. Cristina moves away with her fiancé, causing Jorge to completely give up on his life. He becomes haunted by the death of a coworker.

Lightly recommended only for audiences that like slow moving horror/drama with reservations. There are elements of horror, but most of it doesn’t really come into the frame until very late in the movie’s length. The movie is going for a slow descent into a pit of despair, layering in a social commentary about the poor conditions construction workers must live in. There are aspects of supernatural horror, but they won’t come into play until the end. Audiences looking for horror might get bored or impatient. Audiences looking for drama might not be keen on the horror elements.

That will do for now.