In 1964, José Mojica Marins released AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL, introducing Brazilian cinema to horror and the world to his alter ego, Coffin Joe, an undertaker Hell-bent on passing on his bloodline. MIDNIGHT was followed in 1967 with THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE, which followed Coffin Joe on his continued quest to find a superior female in which to bare him a son. Marins kept Coffin Joe alive and in the popular culture of Brazil well into the 1980s thanks to appearances on local television and the occasional film, but it would take him four decades before he was able to complete the trilogy he started with MIDNIGHT. Times have certainly changed since Marins first adorned his trademark cape and top hat. His belly has gotten bigger and his unibrow has gotten greyer but the mad look is still in his eyes and his fingernails are as overgrown as ever, a clear and ubiquitous sign that while he may be older, Coffin Joe is back!
Released from a mental ward after serving a 40-year stretch, Josefel Zanatas aka Zé do Caixão aka Coffin Joe (José Mojica Marins) is let loose onto the streets of São Paulo. Aided by his hunchbacked servant Bruno (Rui Rezende) and a quartet of young and eager servants, Coffin Joe wastes no time in picking back up his life's work. Settling into his new abode, Coffin Joe is presented, initially one by one and later by the dozens, with a bevy of Brazilian beauties to test. Only those who are able to endure both psychological and physical torture will be deemed worthy of the undertaker’s seed. Finding the proper mate becomes a daunting task for Coffin Joe as his release from prison has awakened the spirits of his past victims. Disfigured and dismembered, the black and white apparitions of those killed in the first two films, haunt and threaten Zé do Caixão with eternal damnation for his evil deeds. While he is able to fight off such walking nightmares, the threats of the real world present themselves to be a bit more challenging, as a local police captain (Jece Valadão), his brother (Adriano Stuart) and a man of the cloth (Milhem Cortaz) take their fight to the streets in hopes of silencing the sadistic reign of Coffin Joe forever.
There is something in José's eyes. I would describe it as intelligence and age meet perversion. Coffin Joe is human, but only in so much as he is made out of flesh. His mind, or I should say his ego, is on a whole other plain. By his own admission, Coffin Joe believes himself to be greater than God and lower than Satan. He is an atheist who believes that those who fear God, are damning themselves to a life not lived. By not accepting God, Coffin Joe considers himself to be superior, as he is not constrained by any such religious morals or values. He respects only those who grab life by the balls, regardless of whose body they are attached to. And just in case there is a God, Coffin Joe believes he has found a way to cheat him, through the continuation of his blood. It is just such a theme that has driven Marins' unique character since its inception in 1964. EMBODIMENT is a fitting closing chapter to the Coffin Joe mythology as it not only presents a consistent and distinctive frame of thought for a decidedly original cult horror icon but because it allows Marins the opportunity to rewrite the ending to THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE, which was originally altered by the insistence of the local government, so that God would prevail at the film's conclusion.
EMBODIMENT OF EVIL is beautifully shot, with vibrant, detailed exteriors and often hallucinogenic visuals. That said, EMBODIMENT is not for everybody. Even fans of world weird cinema might be a little off put by its sadist temperament. It’s hard not to compare EMBODIMENT to more modern franchises such as the SAW films, as both share a proclivity for teasing their audience with scenes of torture and gore. What sets EMBODIMENT apart however is its regional feel and José Mojica Marins himself. José carries the picture from frame one and does so with enough flair and charisma that it becomes plausible that grown men would be freighted of an old man with long fingernails and a paunch belly. The fact that he tortures women in ways that would make your typical American horror movie blush only adds to Marins' menace. There are several sadistic scenes through EMBODIMENT but perhaps none so more as one in which a young woman partakes in self cannibalism by enjoying a personalized slice of “picanha”. “Picanha” is a uniquely Brazilian cut of beef, one taken from the top of the rump. Other visual treats, or nightmares, include a man being hanged by the flesh of his back from meat hooks (the “making of” featurette documents that such a trick was a practical effect!), a woman being dunked into a barrel of animal entrails and a sex scene between Marins and the beguiling Nara Sakarê, in which the two are drowned in a river of blood that falls down from the sky like rain.
Synapse’s presents EMBODIMENT OF EVIL in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that maintains the level of quality and care that fans have come to expect for the cult label. The Blu-ray chimes in with an impressive High-Definition, AVC Codes, 1080p widescreen (1.85:1) presentation. Its equally striking companion DVD being offered in anamorphic widescreen. Detail is crisp, allowing for every twisted vein and scraggly hair to be displayed in the utmost clarity. Colors are solid and blacks appear rich, helping to couple an all over spot on transfer. While there is little to complain about EMBODIMENT's visual appearance, there is even less to complain about its audio arrangements. Audio is available in a DTS-HD Master Audio track in 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo, both in the film's original Portuguese language with English subtitles.
Special features (identical on both the DVD and Blu-ray) include a making of featurette (31:44) which contains interviews with both cast and crew. The featurette briefly touches on Marins' past, as well as the first two films in the trilogy, but spends most of its time documenting the trails and tribulations of the film's shoot. Behind the scenes footage shows several of the actors and actresses as they are tested to ensure that they will be up for the film's challenges, such as being covered in live bugs, as well documenting the crews displeasure of having to film one scene in which a nude actress is sewn inside the corpse of a massive dead hog. The featurette also touches on how the production handled the sudden and unexpected passing of Jece Valadão. Extras continue with footage from the film's premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival (13:53). Dressed as Coffin Joe, Marins is wheeled out on stage in a coffin where he addresses (via an interpreter) a rousing crowd before being presented with a life time achievement award. The footage appears to have been taken with a handheld video camera, as the picture keeps struggling to autofocus. It is also incredibly hard to hear what anyone is saying. Still, it’s nice to see Marins get the love and kudos he deserves. EMBODIMENT’s original theatrical trailer (1:40) is also included, in its original language with accompanying English subtitles. (Jason McElreath)
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