Embodiment of Evil (José Mojica Marins, 2008): Brazil

Reviewed by Richard Feilden.  Viewed at the Majestic Crest Theater as part of the 2009Los Angeles Film Festival.

embodiment_of_evil-stillEmbodiment of Evil is the  third in the Coffin Joe series of Brazilian horror films from actor, director and writer José Mojica Marins.  Released over forty years after the original two films, the character returns, complete with the long fingernails that Marins grows for the role, to continue his bloody trek to immortality.  Though the story is hard to make sense of, the film certainly delivers what is required of it in the blood and gore department.

Coffin Joe has spent the last forty years locked in a Brazilian prison.  Granted parole by a doctor’s report, he is released back onto the streets by an unwilling and terrified police department.  There, immediately reunited with his hunchbacked servant, he returns to his scheme to find the perfect woman with whom to unleash his terrible spawn (higher than God and lower than Satan, we are told) upon the world and, through this blood link, ensure his place in perpetuity.  It isn’t going to be a bloodless pursuit!

What follows is a rather confusing (at least for this Coffin Joe neophyte) descent into increasingly bizarre acts of violence and a correspondingly large number of naked women.  Certainly, judging from the reactions of the late-night Grindhouse crowd, the lack of coherent plot is not a problem for everyone.  Each act of horror (a woman’s scalp is pulled over her head to form a deadly blindfold, another is fed her own buttock) was greeted with a louder cheer than the one before.  While I could certainly understand the excitement in the outrageous spectacles, I was confused by their cheer when the woman charged with defending Coffin Joe in court was beaten senseless by a group of baton wielding police officers–though strangely the crowd didn’t have the same reaction to their later attack on Joe’s evil manservent.  Perhaps they were simply caught up in the blood-letting, but, though it reinforced the depravity of the police (though having seen them rounding up and slaughtering street kids earlier in the film this was hardly necessary!), this was the moment in the film that I found the most disturbing. (If you look back to my review of Iron Man though, you’ll see the impact that a crowd can have on my perception of a film).  While acts of violence are committed against men in the film, a vastly disproportionate number of the most foul ones are committed against women and, spectacle aside, the misogyny here is harder to stomach than the violence itself.

The gore–and that is what this film is about–comes thick and fast, with one scene giving Sam Rami’s exploding wall-of-blood in Evil Dead 2 a run for its money in the pint stakes!  But that is really all that this film has going for it.  If you want to spend ninety minutes in a blood-bathed hell, then this film will satisfy your desires beyond your wildest dreams.  If you want something a little more cerebral, or simply a story that you can follow, then there is better out there.

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