Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halloween Horrors-At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1963) was the first film by Brazillian director/writer/actor Jose Mojica Marins, with Marins portraying the main character Ze' do Caixao, or, as he's known in the States, Coffin Joe.

Coffin Joe is the undertaker in a small Brazillian town. He holds the town under his sway, the townspeople fearing him. Coffin Joe is a driven, evil man, whose goal is to find the perfect woman to have a son with, so as to continue his line. Coffin Joe will stop at nothing to achieve his plans, and commits acts of murder and terrorizing the townspeople and anyone else who might get in the way of his quest. Coffin Joe mocks the weak, religion, and superstition alike in his vision of superiority. Will Coffin Joe get away with his evil acts? Will he achieve his ultimate goal of finding the perfct woman to bear his son? Will the spirit world have its revenge on the non-believing Coffin Joe?

Marins made this film without much as far as previous horror movie viewing for inspiration. He went on a mix of Catholocism, Voodoo, and mysticism to create a film unlike any at the time. His portrayal of Coffin Joe as sort of a Nietzsche-esque figure of evil in black clothes, cape, and top hat, with long, Nosferatu-like nails, made for an original screen villian. His brutal acts , including cutting a man's finger off, putting a poisonous spider on his bound girlfriend, killing his friend to get to his girlfriend, and commiting various acts of sacrilige, made an impression on Brazillian much so, that he became a sort of Boogeyman of Brazil. Marins went on to make several more films starring Coffin Joe, including This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse(1967), and the recent Embodiment of Evil (2008). Coffin Joe went under the radar as far as the rest of the world is concerned, until a few years ago. Now Marins and his black-clad undertaker are better-known, but still pretty much a cult thing.

I first read about the Coffin Joe films a few years ago, and I finally got to see them about a year ago on IFC. They showed some of the films on Halloween, appropriately enough, and I really liked them. They are definately different, but the fact that Marins made the films in sort of a cinematic vaccuum makes them truly independent and original . Their low budgets are apparent, but the spirit is there, and more than makes up for it. Like the Blind Dead series, there's a Coffin Joe box set of DVDs available, in a coffin-shaped box. Unfortunately, I don't have this set yet, but it would look good next to my Blind Dead set and my Misfits CD coffin-box set.

If you're up for something different, and don't mind black-and-white movies, check out At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. Who knows, you may become a disciple of Coffin Joe.


Charles Gramlich said...

This is one I haven't seen.

BTW, I listed your horror movie reviews on my blog as related to the Halloween Horror October. Figured it was good to mention some non-fiction type stuff.

Heff said...

Is Coffin Joe any relation to Joe the Plumber ?

Scott said...

Charles, thanks for the plug!

Heff, this is Joe the Plumber's second cousin twice removed...or something like that.

Paul R. McNamee said...

I saw three of the Coffin Joe movies last year - they aired them on IFC. They were very bizarre but very original. Creepy stuff.