Embodiment of Evil Review

The Film

Coffin Joe, aka Josefel Zanatas and Zé do Caixão, is a very Latin American anti-hero. He is the dark satanic protagonist who ignores the laws of man, and laughs at the pretensions of religion. State and church are nothing to him as he seeks his own desire for immortality and omnipotence. Coffin Joe is the alter-ego of Jose Mojica Marins, who, for forty five years, has donned the black cloak, top hat, and medallion of his creation. The gothic and nietzschean poetry of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul began the story of a rebellion against man and god, and time has seen Joe move into lurid colour, outright social commentary in Awakening of the Beast, and now on to this modern treatment complete with heavy metal music and more gore than you could shake a recently severed buttock at.

In a continent, and specifically the country of Brazil, where the powerful have used church and state to retain their position, and where passivity and acceptance have often been forced upon the powerless through a mixture of imported Catholicism and indigenous beliefs, comes a man empowered beyond politics or scripture. Whilst street children are murdered by security forces and priests demand fatalistic acceptance, Coffin Joe laughs at the beaten down and fights those who seem to be beyond the reach of any foe.
In the present we join Joe as he is released from mental hospital by terrified guards and police, and he is soon joined by his Igor-like servant, Bruno(no, not that one). With a gang of leather clad lovelies as followers, and the church, the police and local superstition chasing him, Joe sets about the task of finding the lucky lady to carry his seed. It's an extensive interview approach that he adopts in his quest which mixes mutilation, torture, and auto-cannibalism. With his beard and grumpy manner, Coffin Joe often resembles a Brazilian Alan Sugar and narrows the candidates down to the few who are able to endure the torments so that they can get themselves some septuagenarian loving.

Embodiment of Evil is no shameless cash in on the cult status that Marins now enjoys. The movie reminds the familiar viewer about the director's strengths whilst giving new thrill seekers the flesh and blood they crave. The poetic speeches, the church baiting, and the commitment to the spirit of the superman he created are all present, and the beautiful sense of the gothic, along with the contrasting revulsion of the man's deeds, are just as in evidence as in earlier installments. Despite age, good sense and the slew of modern competition, Coffin Joe's latest appearance retains the dream-like and lyrical approach that made him so captivating when he first came to the screen.
Unsurprisingly, logic is often sacrificed in this nightmare world and some new viewers may find the notion of the 73 year old Marins as a sex machine in need of a pedicure rather risible. Still by ramping up the sleaze, keeping the political comment, and staying true to the spirit of the past, Marins creates an undeniably energetic and modern movie. Whilst you may have become used to the trashy sequels and remakes of mainstream horror, Marins proves that you can buck this trend of dull recycling to make provocative and impressive cinema.

Transfer and Sound

The idea of Coffin Joe on blu-ray seems anathema when you consider the previous shoddy treatments on DVD of the director's work. Yet despite a wandering aspect ratio, looking at the stills above it flits between 1.78:1 and 1.85:1, this is a very good treatment. The level of detail is exquisite, the colours vivid and strong, and the contrast is well judged. Only in some of the green screen moments does some haloing occur, and edges are left pretty much as they must have been shot. Relax, you don't miss a pixel of offal or scandalising flesh!
Two high definition audio options are provided with the bit rate on the True HD 5.1 track higher than the LPCM option. The sound design here is creepy and pounding by turns so there is plenty of atmosphere and dimension to be had from the surround track in preference to the stereo one. Largely though it's a question of mood and scene setting that the surround option provides here with spatial definition not being over precise. Two fine audio tracks and a fine transfer mean there is little to complain about, and even the English subtitles are clean and clear and optional.

Discs and Special Features

This release is region free with about 80% of the single layer disc used, and the main transfer using 16.9GB. There are two extras, both in standard definition with LPCM sound, and these are a 30 minute making of featurette and a short trailer. The making of documentary plays up the angle that this film is the official third part of the Coffin Joe trilogy, despite the existence of films like Awakening of the Beast, and the young crew eulogise about Marins pretty non stop. Time is given over to explaining his penchant for "guerilla" shooting and his willingness to improvise. Marins never speaks to the camera during this piece with his son substituting and footage of the man directing the cast being the best we get in this respect. We do learn that Jece Valadão died during filming and that one flashback scene to the earlier movies was re-shot so that Marins could reverse the military censorship imposed on him when he originally filmed it.

Summary

It's hard not to rejoice that a Marins film is available on a decent blu-ray, and further celebration is necessary that this new installment in the world of Coffin Joe is so good. For those who enjoy this film, they may want to double dip for the coming Coffin Joe box-set featuring nine films about or from the man, including the first two part of this trilogy.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
4 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

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