All of this would seem to be highly promising material for a ghost story. Certainly, while we have had everything from haunted hotels The Shining, haunted hotel rooms 1408 (2007), haunted hospitals The Kingdom (1994), haunted prisons Prison (1987), haunted submarines Below (2002) and Ghostboat (2006), haunted vehicles The Wraith (1986), haunted airplanes The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973), haunted drive-in theatres Ruby (1977), haunted videotapes The Ring (2002), the supermarket is a location that nobody has tried yet as far as I am aware although we did have a supermarket slasher film with Intruder (1989).
That said, despite being primed, Hard Labor refuses to conform to any of the tropes of the haunted house genre. Directors Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas never engage in any atmosphere generating tactics and seem disinterested in ever attempting to scare us; the film is directed with a plain middle of the road approach the entire way. Even more so, Hard Labor is a ghost story that comes without any resolution. There is no explanation of what the creature in the wall is, if it or anything else in the building is influencing people or if the changes in Helena Albergarias behaviour are just general financial and psychological stress. The story comes to a frustratingly abrupt non-ending with Marat Descartes in a motivational seminar that ends on a freeze-frame of his face as he breaks into a primal scream.
On another level, Hard Labor has been made as a metaphor for the effects of the current recession. Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas set out to depict the effect that this has had on all strata of society Helena Albergaria represents the independent small business owner and the stress that they are experiencing in trying to make financial ends meet; Marat Descartes is representative of middle-aged middle-management suddenly being faced with redundancy and a shrinking job market; while Naloana Limas maid represents the underclass of people on the margins as she searches for registration (some facet of Brazilian labour law that was not clear to me, which I gather is akin to getting a legal work permit) and is forced to accept tough job conditions, including a months trial without pay, in order to become employed. This is something that Hard Labor does a fair job of portraying. However, in trying to be a ghost story as well, it becomes an unsatisfying morass of confusing and unresolved plotting ends.
Subsequently, both seperately, Juliana Rojas went onto make Necropolis Symphony (2014), a surreal comedy about a gravedigger, while Marco Dutra went onto make the ghost story When I Was Alive (2014).
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)