Embodiment of Evil is the latest entry in the infamous Coffin Joe series. If you’re not familiar with this popular horror character from Brazil, Coffin Joe — aka Zé do Caixão — is a demoniac undertaker who, with the help of loyal followers, terrorizes towns and slums while looking for the perfect woman to bear his child.
The brainchild of writer/director José Mojica Marins, who also plays the title role, Coffin Joe has become a cult figure since his first incarnation in the 60′s as the films have long injected a strong dose of social commentary in its exploitation texture.
With lines between reality and fiction blurred — I’m obviously not talking about the killings but about the fact that the filmmaker became his character, sporting his emblematic top hat, cape and long nails in real life — Embodiment of Evil is even more intriguing, giving us the chance to see how the character, the films and the society they critique have evolved throughout the years.
Amusingly, as the character grew older (by 45 years), he looks even more menacing and creepier than how he used to, his slim figure and blank face replaced by some more monstrous-looking entity. As for the films themselves, given that the boundaries of shock have been pushed much further these last few years, it isn’t surprising to see that Embodiment of Evil reflects that cinematic evolution, the mix of violence, sadism, gore and sex has clearly been exacerbated this time. Style-wise, gone is the avant-garde and artsy facture of the earlier films; a more contemporary guerrilla and indie approach is more logical, especially as the filmmaker works on tight budgets.
When it comes to portraying Brazilian society, we also notice that the crazed drug years of the 60′s have been replaced by poverty and corruption in the slums, now the backdrop for these new adventures of the gravedigger. While this is obviously accurate, one regrets that Mr. Marins somewhat jumps on the bandwagon, following film such as City of God.
Just like any serial horror film, Embodiment of Evil follows the same formula, Zé do Caixão once again searches for the perfect woman with murders and and an abundance of naked girls along the way. While I’m far from being a virgin when it comes to exploitation — check out our cult section — I must admit there were a few torture scenes which were hard to stomach but, by looking at the audience, should however satisfy the most extreme schlock nerds.
Whether you see the first films or not and whatever your movie tastes are, Embodiment of Evil is worth the experience. This is certainly not a masterpiece but as a representation of the state of a Brazilian cinema’s subgenre, it is an entry that should appeal to cinephiles interested in foreign and genre films … as long as they have the guts for it.
Director: José Mojica Marins – Actors: José Mojica Marins, Jece Valadão – Running Time: 1:34 – Year: 2008 – Country: Brazil