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Synapse Films Appreciation Week continues today with a new Coffin Joe entry that captures the entire essence of Coffin Joe’s history, visual power and successful tropes that made the original two films a success and cemented the name Coffin Joe into the cult cinema fans horror experience. Synapse put out Embodiment of Evil in 2011, original filmed in 2008. This marks the return to screen of one of a truly menacing character featured in prominent scare-ploitation films of the 1960’s and 1970’s. While my own knowledge of actor Jose Mojica Marins is limited because I’ve only just started to dig into his strong library of features, he is without a double a terrifying site to look at with imagery that has me thinking mad magician or H.G. Lewis’ original Wizard of Gore but perhaps more sadistic, mystical and terrifying.
Synopsis from Synapse Films:
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.
The older works of Coffin Joe (Marins) are indeed iconic and should be celebrated and while Embodiment of Evil tries to capture the greatness of this character that ended 30 years prior to this release, it cannot hope to. That being said it is more a tribute to the man or an homage to himself allowing the viewer one last dance with a perverse and perhaps misunderstood madman. Enjoying At Midnight I’ll Take Your sould, The Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse are important to enjoying Embodiment of Evil.
The movie itself is filled with the things of sexploitation and brutal torture that will excite the sickest and most depraved minds. It features lovely, naked beauties wearing the pubic hair style of the hey day from which this character original hails. There are flashback scenes from previous Coffin Joe films interspersed with original footage and a story line that is palatable that attempts to draw out an aging Coffin Joe from his time spent in an mental asylum. The whole thing feels like one big mess of scenes thrown together with minimal narrative and focused solely on shock stock footage and visceral nudie cuts to make your heart race. With sexual excitement, perverse pleasure or disgust is up to the viewer to decide.
I want to make it quite clear that I find that Embodiment of Evil feels more like a Jess Franco movie from the early 70’s with lower production value. It’s focus on the experience of watching and blind attempts to influence the emotions of the viewer through various unconnected scenes of extreme violence paired with lovingly, erotic, dark imagery is pure Franco. That being said, modern Franco movies don’t look or feel like Embodiment or at least aren’t as concerned with some of the darker imagery used in in this feature.
Features include a making of featurette and footage from the Fantasia Film Festival Premiere as well as the original trailer.
I recommend this release for fans of Coffin Joe aka Zé do Caixão. If you enjoyed the original two features in this series and later character developments than this is a nice way to pay your respects and continue your love for the man and the legend. Newbies, start with the originals and move into this one. It’s a nice way to see from where this character has come, but you may want to see for yourself in the original movies.
Also important to note about Marins, he’s directed a segment in the Profane Exhibit, a widely anticipated multi story feature that promises to test its audience to see if they can handle true exploitation, perversion and being uncomfortable while watching cinema. We’re going to review that when we can.