Have you heard of Coffin Joe? Well, apart from a few clips on the old Channel 4 T.V. series Eurotrash years ago, I was pretty much in the dark about this strange and enigmatic character. In recent years however, Coffin Joe has become somewhat of a cult figure amongst horror fans with the dvd release of his back catalogue of bizarre horror movies.
Coffin Joe (or Zé do Caixão ) is actually the cinematic alter-ego of Brazillian writer, director and producer José Mojica Marins. He first brought this evil character to life when he produced and starred in A Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma, which translates as At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, back in 1964.
When I watched this movie for the first time, I was surprised at how effective it still is today. The film follows the story of Coffin Joe, an undertaker in a small town who is feared by the townsfolk due to his violent ways and complete lack of any morals or scruples. He is obsessed with finding a woman to bear his son, so that he can continue his bloodline, thinking this is his only way of achieving true immortality. Rape, torture and murder are the order of the day as Coffin Joe tries to achieve his aims.
Brutally shocking in its depictions of graphic violence, especially when he beats one woman to a pulp before raping her, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is no misogynistic gore-fest. The use of shadow and eerie sounds to create a creepy atmosphere owe more to the Universal horror classics and German expressionism than anything else. At times watching this film is more like watching somebody’s surreal, twisted nightmare; full of ghostly figures, cackling witches and over-the-top thunderstorms.
If you haven’t yet tracked down Coffin Joe, then this is as good a place to start as any and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be intrigued enough to continue your journey into his strange and twisted imagination.
Review by Richard Gladman