Film

Marins' 'Evil' is Real Horror Show


The Embodiment of Evil (Encarnação do Demônio)

Director: José Mojica Marins
Cast: Jose Mojica Marins, Milhem Cortaz, Rui Rizende, Jece Valadão
Rated: R
Studio: TriStar Pictures
Year: 2009
US date: 2009-08-28 (Limited Release)
UK date: 2009-07-04 (General release)
Website
Trailer

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.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.