Monday, March 28, 2011

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Embodiment of Evil (2008)

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

LABEL: Synapse Films
RELEASE DATE: March 28th 2011
REGION: Region ABC [Blu-ray] Region 0 NTSC [DVD]
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1 (16x9)
AUDIO: DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Portuguese, DTS-HD Dolby Digital Stereo Portuguese
DURATION: 94 minutes
DIRECTOR: José Mojica Marins
CAST: José Mojica Marins, Jece Valadão, Adriano Stuart, Rui Resende
TAGLINE: The Master of Horror is Back.

PLOT: After serving a 40-year prison term, Coffin Joe is finally released from the Mental Heath wing of the São Paulo State Penitentiary. Back on the streets, the sadistic undertaker is set upon fulfilling the goal which sent him to jail in the first place: find a woman who can give him the perfect child. Accompanied by his faithful servant, the humpbacked Bruno, Coffin Joe leaves behind a trail of horror and is haunted by ghostly visions and the spirits of his past victims.

FILM: The Coffin Joe Trilogy is a series of films spanning four decades that began with the macabre AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964) which marked the first Brazilian horror film and introduced the world to a true horror icon. Then came the sequel THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967).  For those unfamiliar with the mythos of Ze Do Caixao aka Coffin Joe he is a murderous undertaker whom  passionately despises religion and spits in the face of morality. He is possessed by an all consuming obsession to find the perfect woman whom will bare his perfect son and thus guarantee his immortality through "the continuation of the blood". It's a sadistic and bloody quest that has left many corpses in its wake throughout the years. Ze is a truly macabre character who is attired in a signature black suit, long black cloak, a top hat and unnaturally long and gnarly fingernails.


At the end of the second film THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967) Ze is shot while being pursued by an angry mob. He falls into a pond and appears to die as his body sinks into the dark waters. It's a fantastically macabre ending that would seem to sound the death knell for our sadistic protagonist but then again so did the the previous film.  A whopping 4o years later the third installment of the trilogy EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) begins as Coffin Joe is released from a prison for the criminally insane. Outside the prison he's greeted by the Renfield type servant character Bruno a familiar character from THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967) and the two immediately form a legion of followers culled from a fanatical cult that have sprung up around the legend of Coffin Joe. Once Ze is satisfied that they are of the proper calibre of insanity he sets about to continue his quest for the perfect woman and the elusive immortality through blood. Our first victim is Dr. Hilda who appropriately is a doctor of the study of selective breeding. Sounds like a perfect match, right? She probably thinks differently as she's tied down, drugged and has a crazy hallucination wherein Coffin Joe gruesomely slices of a slab of her ass and feeds it to her which she ravenously consumes. Ze begins to have nightmarish visions of his past victims which haunt him throughout the film. Marins' patented nightmarish and surreal imagery is fully intact and it's definitely where the film excels. The scenes are particularly haunting and have the effect of humanizing the sadistic Ze and giving him an emotional complexity. Spiritual apparitions aside Ze is also pursued by more physical manifestations in the form of Colonel Pontes, a police captain who was blinded in one eye by Ze and a man of the cloth Father Eugenio whose own father was murdered by Ze in THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967). The two make a pact to destroy Ze with Captain Pontes swearing to kill Ze while the priest damns his soul to Hell for all eternity.

The film excels in the creation of nightmarish imagery and one of the film's finest involved Ze having sex with a young woman named Elena while the blood of her aunts whom he's just killed pour over them both in a deep red cascade of blood. During the carnal act Coffin Joe has a vision where he is transported to Purgatory which resembles an cavernous intestinal tract. There the eerie figure called the Mystifier guides Ze through purgatory which emerges upon an arid desert landscape where he meets Death. It's another surreal and unsettling vision that would not seem out of place in THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) as hordes of naked figures consume each others in an orgy of cannibalism and perversion, it's a thing of grotesque beauty. Sensing his life may soon end Coffin Joe steps-up his efforts to find the perfect woman with whom to sire a child. A montage of his monstrous efforts to prove these women's worth is pretty horrific. One particular nasty bit involved pouring melted cheese over a woman's body and then placing a ravenous rat into the woman's naughty parts. Others include a woman's scalp being peeled from the back of her neck and up over her head while another is sewn into the carcass of a swine, just weird and visually awesome stuff. The special effects in the film are uniformly outstanding, the film definitely steps-up the gore and perversion that we've seen in the previous films. This flurry of sadistic activity leaves a trail of corpses and leads both Captain Pontes and Father Eugenio to Ze's hideout but too late, he's fled through the woods. In pursuit of Ze Captain Pontes catches up to him at an amusement park where Coffin Joe decapitates and impales his head on a pike. Father Eugenio fares better and faces off against Ze. The priest gains the upper hand and impales him through the heart with a spear-like crucifix. The priest is pleased with himself but finds himself haunted by the disembodied shadow of Ze who torments the priest as he flees the scene. As Coffin Joe's body lies dying Elena emerges from the shadows of the amusement park and has sex with him as he dies. The final revelation of the film shows Elena and several other female followers pregnant with Ze's offspring gathered around his grave, his quest for immortality through blood has come to fruition several time over.

I thought this was  fantastically entertaining film. Definite kudos to the Marins and co-writer Dennison Rumalho whom crafted a film that is a wonderful continuation of Coffin Joe's macabre mythos and what came before, it ups the ante and is completely enjoyable as a stand alone film. It's macabre, over-the-top grotesque a bit campy and overflowing with an excess of gorgeous Brazilian beauties - what's not to love?
DVD: Synapse Films presents EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) in a 1.85:1 (16x9) high-definition transfer created from the original camera negative. The film looks simply stunning with vibrant colors, deep black levels and a crisp and finely detailed image. The Portuguese language DTS-HD 5.1 surround is well utilized and enhances the viewing experience with a good amount of depth. The dialogue is always clear and the filmscore and sound effects fill out the surround quite well.

- MAKING OF EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (32 mins) - when I initially watched the film I had not had the pleasure of seeing the two previous Coffin Joe films. I've since gone back and watched them but this comprehensive mini-documentary filled in of the gaps in my knowledge at the time. There are a great number of behind-the scenes clips with interviews with cast and crew. The film is obviously a labor of love and those involved and is a great watch.
- FOOTAG FROM THE FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL PREMIERE - a entertaining a celebratory Q+A from the Fantasia Film Festival as writer/director Jose Mojica Marins accepts a lifetime achievement award honoring his 50+ years in horror cinema. The man knows how to make an entrance, that's for sure as he was wheeled out onstage in an upright coffin to the delight of throngs of fans. Co-writer Dennison Rumalho introduces him in English and relays the question to Marins in Portuguese and then likewise translates Marins answers to English from Portuguese.

VERDICT: EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) comes just after Synapse Films fantastic VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1973) and maintains the high standards set with that. It's great to finally see a Jose Mojica Marins film gets a release that truly respects the film and presents it in an optimal package. EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) is highly recommended . While your at it treat yourself to AT  MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964) and it's sequel THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967) both of which are included on the Region 0 PAL 4-disc DVD  COFFIN JOE BOX SET from Umbrella Entertainment.  I'm looking forward to Synapse next release which is the 80's slasher THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1982) in a fully uncut and never seen before version. 4 outta 5