Tuesday, October 17, 2023

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

The year is 1964. The place is Brazil. And this is the first horror movie from that country.

Once more Cinemassacre's Monster Madness introduced me to this trilogy of films directed and starring José Mojica Marins as Zé do Caixão or as he's known in the States, Coffin Joe. It's kind of amazing to see a piece of world history like this and it would be the first film I ever saw from either Brazil or South America, and I'm very curious to see where this all goes. The plot is pretty basic involving a small town where our absolutely not protagonist resides Ze who is the resident coffin maker, as we see his cruel and unusually punishing tactics in trying to secure a woman who will birth to him a son to continue his bloodline. That's basically the whole movie, there's not a lot of frills but I don't expect a lot of complex storylines for a horror film and it's effectively discomforting and horrifying. Coffin Joe is a bastard with a capital B, like I haven't encountered a movie villain this heinous and fucked up I think in my life. He murders any opposition to his goal, maims and intimidates the townsfolk to the point where he can do whatever he wants, abuses and rapes women, and has a distinct hatred for religion. You are stuck with this guy the whole movie, and the film far from glorifies Zé but man is it rough to sit through! José plays it so straight almost to the point it doesn't seem like acting because he embodies the part so well, apparently they couldn't find a good fit so he just decided to do it himself so he had his work cut out for him both on and off screen. The cinematogtaphy and editing is extremely simple and yet at the exact same time ambitious, they went for a desired effect and shot even if it wasn't seamless in execution which I actually admire and praise. You'd be surprised how little background information there is for this film, so who knows what brought the idea to mind, what the production was like, hell even the release and legacy are a bit foggy even in today's trivia soaked culture. You'd think for a movie made in 1964 it wouldn't be that shocking and gruesome, even more so considering the part of the world it was made in where censoring was common and wide ranging depending on the film, but it's pretty hardcore in it's potrayal of body mutilation alone then you throw in the abuse and rape and it gets even more extreme though you don't see any nudity. I'm almost convinced the greatest offense taken back then was the sacreligious standing of the main character, a true defining trait that at first I chalked up to atheism because Zé states he has no belief, but then it shows he has great contempt for religion, it's symbols, and considers the followers of the christian religion cowards and fools. The only belief he really has is creating an extension of his bloodline, having children as a sort of quasi-immortality. And I suppose if you wanted to you can give him at least one good point, he sees a father about to strike his son and he intervenes and says no parent should hit their child for they are the continuation of your family and the future of the world, so hey he won't beat his kids but he'll absolutely fuck with their mother any chance he'll get. Ummmm....priorities?? Yeah he's pretty irredeemable. I actually quite like the look of the film, it's fairly low budget and is extremely candid of the environments, it's interesting. It's a pretty rough time trying to find a copy I'll tell you that, the old box set is pricy and the recent giant collected release of all three films is not any better price wise, but if you're a hardcore fan of these movies the new collection by Arrow seems just the ticket. And for everybody else, you can find an acceptable quality video on YouTube. Not too sure how a sequel could come about given the ending but that's what we'll look at tomorrow. I give this 3 stars, 7.5/10!

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