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by Bill Gibron

28 Aug 2009

At 73 he remains an icon in his native Brazil, a bold and brash filmmaker who takes the norms of society (and the country’s reliance on religion) and attacks them with anarchic glee. He’s a true eccentric, his off camera persona matching his onscreen façade right down to the overlong fingernails and sinister goatee. As the classic character Zé do Caixão, otherwise known as Coffin Joe, he introduced South America to true movie macabre, and as a writer/director, he’s dabbled in every genre from sexploitation to the Western. Now, Jose Mojica Marins has returned to his legendary undertaker character to conclude his long planned trilogy, and while Embodiment of Evil can be enjoyed by anyone curious about the foreign fright master, those who’ve followed the character since its inception will be richly rewarded.

After spending 40 years in an prison asylum, the craven killer known as Coffin Joe is finally being released. With the help of a lawyer, who just happens to be the wife of a policeman that the villain blinded decades before, he reconnects with his assistant Bruno and sets up shop in the slums of São Paulo. There, he “deputizes” some new followers and begins his ultimate quest - to gain immortality via finding the “perfect woman” to continue his bloodline and bear his son. There are several candidates among the disenfranchised and destitute, but Joe insists on finding just the right one. During the search, he is tormented by the past, seeing ghostly visions of those he has wronged. As the law comes closer and closer to capturing him, Coffin Joe must avoid local superstition and forces from the Underworld, each one desperate to see him fail.

It’s so satisfying to see that little has change in the near half century since Jose Mojica Marins first unleashed this heretical undertaker on the God-fearing populace of Brazil. Still angry, still vehemently humanist, and still ready to blaspheme and belittle everything - from the Saints to the State, Coffin Joe has become even more relevant in the new century. He’s like a dissident distributing death, not a call for change. In his top hat and cape, he’s a case of nasty nostalgia, a reminder of what we used to fight for and an illustration of why said struggles are far from over. Draped in lots of gruesome atmosphere and some amazing special effects, Marins turns this final chapter in the character’s quest for everlasting life into a Grand Guignol geek show, complete with shocking sequences of vivisection, cannibalism and sexual sadism.

But it’s the message that’s much more important to Marins than the splatter. This is a movie that challenges the conventional wisdom, that argues for a man “higher than God and lower than Satan”. At any opportunity, from a minor moment interacting with his potential minions to major clashes with authority, Coffin Joe spews his “man first” mantras. It’s a philosophy based in freedom, self-actualization and fulfillment, anti-establishment stances, and most importantly, a rejection of faith. Clearly, Marins sees the Church as the root of all evil. He constantly challenges it necessity and own hypocrisy, even offering up a priest character who, while seeking revenge, has a few questionably kinky habits all his own. In Coffin Joe’s world, life is all that matters - and a life free of the restraints and unrealistic demands of The Bible is the most important of all.

This doesn’t mean that Embodiment of Evil skimps on the splatter, however. Like Dario Argento’s finale for his Three Mothers series, this is a film that relishes the repulsive nature of post-modern gore in all its ingenious facets. There are scenes that simply stun you in their cruelty, including one particular moment when Marins’ “blinds” a subject with her own scalp. Yes, it’s as nasty as it sounds. Perhaps the most disturbing scene is the trip into Purgatory, Coffin Joe confronting the keeper of said dominion as acts of horrific physical depravity play out in the background. Like the filmmakers he’s most influenced by - Alejandro Jodorowsky and Kenneth Anger - Marins believes in the power of images. Even if they don’t make much sense, we can still appreciate the artistry, impact, and vision involved.

And thanks to the callbacks to his previous films, tying everything together with an attempted narrative flow, Embodiment of Evil keeps everyone happy. Newcomers to the series can pick up the plot almost instantly while enjoying the up to date gruesomeness, while fans familiar with Joe’s insane ravings will get a healthy dose of said screeds. There are times when things seem purposefully confrontational and the actors playing the policemen occasionally come across as stodgy and amateurish. Indeed, one frequently feels that the cast can’t quite get a handle of Marins’ motives. Sometimes, they sync up with him quite nicely. At other instances, it’s like their starring in a parody of his impassioned secular scarefests.

Still, unlike many former masters who return to the territory that made them famous, Jose Mojica Marins truly delivers with Embodiment of Evil. While it doesn’t have the daft deranged darkness of his first few films, or the intellectualized assault of his pseudo-documentaries, it’s a brilliant wrap-up to an equally impressive career. Indeed, it’s rare when someone can be both revered and reviled in his own country, a legend to some, a legitimate threat to others. Though a lot of his issues within Brazil stem directly for the way he thumbs his nose at their convictions, Marins wouldn’t be so important if he wasn’t so good at what he does. After nearly five decades delivering the kind of foreign fright flick shivers that turn the curious into obsessives, his latest is a triumph of tenacity and temerity. If ever a filmmaker lived up to his own self-created reputation, it’s Jose Mojica Marins. He doesn’t just make Coffin Joe movies - he lives them. And a world of scary movie mavens is happier for it. 

by Katharine Wray

28 Aug 2009

Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Stories of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual
by Loren Rhodes
Releasing: 29 September

This looks to be a collection of bone chilling tales with a dark humorist twist.

by Eleanore Catolico

28 Aug 2009

Your favorite Japanese-all female-banana chip lovin’-pop punk trio is back. With new bassist Ritsuko Taneda added to the lineup, alongside lead/guitar Naoko Yamano and drummer Etsuko Nakanishi, Shonen Knife has released their new album Super Group on Good Charamel Records this past Tuesday, August 25th. On the album’s cover, the ladies look like an amalgamation of Charlie’s Angels and the Powder Puff Girls bordered by neon prism configurations, pretty, all grown up, and in fact, super.

Continuing their oeuvre of childhood fantasia as well as quantifying cute, Shonen Knife keep alive the cheery minimalist instrumentation and lyrics that made Kurt Cobain an admirer of the band in the ‘90s. With beyond adorable verses sung in Naoko’s signature cadence, “The super group is perfect / Masters of rock music / Make fantastic sound / Waiting for the tour / They’re going to come and play in my town” my inner hello kitty anima is reborn. For that matter, whose wouldn’t be?

by Nick Dinicola

28 Aug 2009

When Shadow Complex came out last week, it was met with an unusual controversy, which Christian Nutt explored in an article on Gamasutra. The controversy centered around some gamers’ decision to boycott Shadow Complex because of its connection to Orson Scott Card, an outspoken opponent of gay rights. Card wrote Empire, a novel about a leftist army taking over the capital, and Shadow Complex is a prequel to that story.

The decision to boycott raises some interesting questions: Is it fair to boycott the game for its connection to Card? Games are not made by a single person, and Card’s contributions to the game are already slim. Before Nutt (who is himself gay) learned of the controversy around the game, he met with Donald Mustard, the creative director and co-founder of Chair Entertainment, the developer behind Shadow Complex, and wrote, “…over an hour after I had initially mentioned it, he wished me well in my long distance relationship with my boyfriend in Michigan. “It worked for us,” he said, referring to himself and his wife Laura.”

That show of support lies in direct contrast to Card’s stated beliefs. In addition, the game is written by Peter David, described by GayGamer in their own look at the controversy as “a straight but extremely gay-friendly comic book writer…He also just “outed” two characters, Shatterstar and Richter, in Marvel’s X-Force, giving the company its highest profile gay relationship yet.” So now there are two conflicting views represented in the creative talent behind the game. To support one is to support the other and to hurt one is to hurt the other. But if we’re taking Card’s, Mustard’s, and David’s ideologies into account, what about the many others who worked on the game? At what point do you draw the line?

And what of the game itself? Shadow Complex actually has nothing to say about homosexuality. It offers no commentary, no opinion, and no mention of anything even remotely related to sexual orientation. However overblown the cries of racism in Resident Evil 5 were, the game did contain some potentially insensitive imagery, so at least there was something in the game itself to get upset over. Not so in Shadow Complex. In fact, Nutt quotes a friend of his in saying “it subverts the Empire universe severely.”

However, Card has been very vocal in his opposition. He’s part of the board of directors for the National Organization for Marriage, a group that seeks to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage, and he’s been quoted saying “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.” Certainly the degree and high-profile nature of his opposition makes it understandable for someone to want to boycott his works, or anything he’s worked on, out of principal.

To that end, that’s all one can go on: principle. Are you so opposed to Card that you’re willing to hurt David and Chair Entertainment financially? Or vice versa? There is no right or wrong answer; it’s people’s personal beliefs conflicting with the purchase of a video game. The article on GayGamer suggested a rather elegant compromise: “if you’re obviously too disgusted to enjoy the game, avoid it, and speak out. However, if you want to play the game, play it. Enjoy it, but offset the hate: if you buy Shadow Complex, donate $5, $10, $15 if you can spare it to a gay charity.” While the game may say nothing about the controversy now, with more thought and effort being put into game narratives, I wonder how long until the personal and political beliefs of the creators start to find their way into their games. And would this really be a bad thing? As Nutt says, “If we can have meaningful political discussion in other media, we can have it in games.” If anything, it would certainly spur some interesting discussion.

by Adam Tramantano

28 Aug 2009

So much of The Wire is about watching the characters make things up. Beginning with season one, Lieutenant Daniels, the detail he supervises, their purpose and even their basement location, all come together during the process of the story. 

In Season two, the self-starter-ness of the characters moves every major part of the story; from the fact that Major Valchek wants Frank Sobotka to be convicted of something (he knows not what), to Nick Sobotka’s entrepreneurial venture into the business of heroin dealing. 

Season three takes the make-it-up-on-your-own notion to a whole new level with Major Colvin’s decriminalized drug zone, known as Hamsterdam. We are also introduced to a new and very compelling character Dennis “Cutty” Wise who starts his own boxing gym.  It is in this season where Sergeant Ellis Carver forges a new relationship with the corner dealers.

//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2016: Executing 'The Deed'

// Moving Pixels

"It's just so easy to kill someone in a video game that it's surprising when a game makes murder difficult.

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