(1964) director José Mojica Marins
Long lingering in my Netflix rental queue, José Mojica Marins’ At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a strange and interesting Brazilian horror film, dubbed by some “the first Brazilian horror film”. And actually, it’s Netflix that had recommended this to me. If anything, I only had the vaguest notion of José Mojica Marins or the character as it would come to be known in English as “Coffin Joe”.
The character Coffin Joe, Zé do Caixão in the film, is the local undertaker in a small Brazillian village. He’s a rebellious figure, pooh-poohing the superstitions and religion of the people he serves. He has an intellectual edge on them and through his malice and self-interest, bullies them brutally as well. Dressed in a black top hat and a cape, and wearing a sizable black beard, he is hardly a towering figure, but a weird and intimidating one. Director Marins had trouble casting the role and at the last minute ended up playing it himself. He wound up with and unlikely cult horror figure who would return in a few different movies and on television and other forms of popular Brazilian culture.
As the story starts out, he’s lusting after his best friend’s girlfriend, disappointed with his own girlfriend’s inability to have a child. He’s madly focused on carrying on his bloodline, and ultimately, as he winds up killing his girlfriend and his best friend in hopes of extending his chances with the other woman. He is brutal and ruthless, torturing, maiming, and killing, and justifying it all because of his superior self-knowledge and being.
I guess that’s what makes him interesting. There is something rebellious and angry about his character’s rejection of Catholic beliefs and cultural mores that make him somewhat heroic. But he’s heinous by far compared to his qualities.
The film opens with Coffin Joe addressing the camera with some statements about life and death and blood. This is followed by an address from an old gypsy woman toting a skull about how horrifying the film will be. For Coffin Joe will get his in the end. Eating meat on a holy day, raping and killing, daring the devil to come and take him from the world, Joe eventually meets his prophesized doom.
Certainly interesting. Interesting enough to queue up some of the later Coffin Joe movies. Not quite as fascinating as I was tempted to hope for, but certainly something worth seeing.