EMBODIMENT OF EVIL
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
José Mojica Marins
José Mojica Marins
What's it about
Released after 40 years in a prison for the criminally insane, Coffin Joe resumes his grisly and sadistic life's work, determined to "continue his blood" and have a child by whatever means necessary. He then tortures and mutilates potential mates to find the perfect vessel, while being hunted by an insane priest and vengeful cop with whom he has a bloody history, and being literally haunted by the ghosts of his past crimes.
Is it good movie?
As Brazil's first horror icon, José Mojica Marins and his "Coffin Joe" character have had a long and twisted history over the past 50 years. First appearing in 1963 in At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, and then again in 1967 with This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, Coffin Joe went on to appear in various horror and exploitation films, as a secondary character, as well as in songs, videos and comics and on TV. And now after 40 years locked away, Coffin Joe is back looking to get his freak on and make some babies. One of the most enduring and sadistic South American horror characters, Joe has aged well. His trademark long yellow fingernails are even longer (think 4-6 inches long!), he's older and more grisly, and just as batshit crazy! While the atmospheric horror of the original two films in the trilogy was in black and white, now we get an unrated feast of naked flesh and bloody gore in full colour (and HD!).
While I'm a huge fan of the first two flicks, this latest (and final?) entry was just okay for me. I think it was mostly because unlike the others, there was no real dreadful atmosphere at play here, and the story was barely there, more like a basic frame on which to hang some gory scene goodness. While nudity and gore are always awesome, I found myself wanting more horror, more tension and a hell of a lot more atmosphere. The most I got was provided by flashbacks to the original films from the '60's, with the ghosts of characters deftly interposed into the modern movie. It was very nice work, and incredibly creepy. As for the gore, who wouldn't love it? Flesh slicing (and some bonus flesh eating), cross impaling, chain hanging knife slashing, and of course Joe's nasty fingernails doing what they do best - gouging out some eyes! If this had all been backed up by a more fleshed out story it would have been awesome. But whole I grooved to the whole continuation angle, the whole felt a bit lacking. It felt more campy than the originals, and as such it was hard to take it seriously.
As for acting, Marins did his usual exceptional scene chewing and sermonizing, and he was at his best when torturing his "brides" or recoiling in fear from the ghosts of his past. Unfortunately, he's just not as creepy as he used to be, and that palpable sense of power he used to have is mostly gone, replaced by nastiness and a whole lot of trippy preaching. Still, Marins brings some considerable chops to both acting and directing, and he was damn fun to watch. Rui Rezende was spot on as Bruno, Joe's Igor-ish henchman, and the parade of mostly naked girls rounded out an excellent cast, most specifically the gorgeous Nara Sakarê as Joe's most devoted follower, Elena. Special mention here for Jece Valadão, as the poor cop that Joe blinded in At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, here out for revenge now that Joe has been released.
All told, Coffin Joe's final quest to continue his own bloodline, and his own f*cked up sense of superiority, is a fun ride, if a little shallow story wise when compared to the previous films. A little less horror, a lot more camp and gratuitous gore, and a fitting end to an old hoary bastard, Embodiment of Evil was still a good movie, despite its flaws, it just wasn't as good, in my opinion, as what has come before. Still, if you dug the first two movies, this one is a must see.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen (1.85:1) in 1080p HD.
Audio: DTS-HD MA (5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo) in Portuguese with English subtitles.
Aside form the Theatrical Trailer, we also get footage from the Fantasia Film Festival Premiere, where it was received just as well as its premiere at the Paulinia Film Festival in Brazil. There is also a short Making Of Featurette which shows the creepy Marins at work. Well worth watching if you're a fan of the director/actor and his work.
Hopelessness, blood, mayhem and boobs elevate this sadistic Brazilian film and make it almost stand with the rest of the cult horror trilogy, but it's hampered by a lack of story (the basic premise is just to tie the gory set pieces together), a reliance on Coffin Joe's creepiness (which honestly has lost a bit of its effectiveness in 40 years) and a level of camp that undercuts any tension or real fear that could have been generated. The scariest and best parts were the flashbacks to the original two films, and how they were brought into this production, making for some seriously creepy moments (Brazilian B&W ghosts are f*cking scary, man). This labour of love for Marins has been long overdue for fans of the character, and for them it will become an excellent addition to their collections. For me, I preferred the first two films, but I grooved to this one as well. I just wish it had been more than just torture pieces and trippy flashbacks.