Impulse Buy Theater - This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse
Having wrapped up one long-running series here with the Blind Dead films, let’s turn our attention to our favorite Brazilian ne’er do well…Coffin Joe…as we take a look at the next film in the series: This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse. And once again, we find ourselves in a peculiar blend of surrealism that would make Crazy Uncle Jodo proud and sets/photography that fit right in with the old Universal Monster movies.
Like nearly any horror franchise, the opening of the film tells us that not only did Coffin Joe NOT die at the end of At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul, but he was slowly mended by doctors to a full recovery. Once healed, we find Joe in what I’m assuming to be a new town but with the same old mission: find a superior woman to implant his seed so that he may achieve immortality through the propagation of his bloodline. Naturally, he does this all the while being ever so charming…proudly proclaiming his atheist ways [Okay, we can’t knock him for that one. – Ed.] and constantly reminding everyone around him that they are beneath him. Same old Joe. But in this opening, we actually see something redeeming in Joe, as a drunken or, at the very least totally unobservant, motorcyclist tears down the road toward a group of children playing the street…most of the kids get out of the way, however one does not…and Joe leaps to the rescue, saving the child. And here, strangely enough, we have something that makes if not for the best villains then certainly the more interesting ones, we gain insight to Joe’s twisted morality. There is nothing more precious than a child. Stop and think about that for a second. A murder, sadist, rapist who would stand shoulder to shoulder with any suburban soccer mom to shout out “WHAT ABOUT THE CHIIIIIIIIILDREN?!?!?!?”. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition. One wealthy young and attractive socialite of the town takes notice and commends Joe on his heroics…telegraphing her attraction for him. He certainly recognizes his impact on her and doesn’t shy from her advance…but doesn’t act on it immediately.
No, that waits until the kidnappings. Ah, Joe, you delirious bastard.
To set up said kidnappings, we’re introduced to…in addition to our aforementioned socialite…two sisters on their way to visit their father, one woman who is fed up with her drunken husband and decides to leave with their unborn child (remember that, it’s important for later) and two others that prove to be so significant that I simply cannot remember any details about them. [What did we say about sarcasm? – Ed.] Right, so six women…all seemingly okay with their new status as a…well…forced harem, maybe? Man, someone take the time to search the WebMD and check out how long it takes for Stockholm syndrome to kick in, eh? [It isn't WebMD, but here's Wikipedia to save the day. - Ed.] Because I’m guessing this sets a new record. While they’re all sleeping comfortably, Joe executes his first test: Tarantula Infestation. They actually manage to sleep through it for a bit…then the screaming begins. The socialite, Monica, however, remains relatively calm throughout the experience. The test over, Joe’s horribly scarred and hunchbacked assistant, Bruno, cleans up the spiders and they all assemble in…the lab? You know what, best not to think about it, let’s just keep going. Well, Monica is instructed to wait in Joe’s bedroom while the others are condemned for their weakness. Bruno gets to pick one as a ‘present’ and…yeah, she doesn’t make it. The remaining four are ushered into a doorway where they’re subjected to the bonus round…snakes. Now, here’s the level of depravity we get with Joe here: while these women are screaming and are slowly being strangled by the assembled constrictors, Joe’s got a panel in his floor that moves so that he has a front row seat. And when does he choose to watch this? While he’s starting to have sex with Monica. [Putting him high in the running for the 2017 Nuking the Cat Mr. Sensitivity Award. – Ed.] Monica, like any sane person, can’t really get in the mood with all that shrieking going about, so she signals the coitus interruptus…but she isn’t so naïve to think that she’ll make it out of this experience alive. Joe however spares her, claiming he knows she loves him…and the fact that she feels that love makes her weak, and thus not the superior woman he’s looking for. But that love WILL keep her from turning him in…and will force her to aid him in the future.
Thus, Joe continues on his quest for the superior woman and feels like he may have found it in a prominent colonel’s daughter, Laura. Sure enough, the two hit it off as she submits to various tests only to pass each one…one of which including the ‘oh, yeah, btw, I killed your brother’ gag. Works on the ladies every time I hear. It’s here where the story turns. Joe goes to celebrate his good fortune at the bar when he overhears the aforementioned drunk husband lamenting the disappearance of his pregnant wife. Uh-oh. Joe intrudes, asking for clarification and the drunkard obliges. We find that Joe has done something that he himself finds to be despicable…something that breaks even his twisted moral code: he has killed a child. Joe retires to bed with Laura after this, his head spinning with the curse issued by the pregnant woman as a large constrictor strangled her…at midnight, I will possess your soul.
And although it’s dated, here’s where we get our surrealist twist as Joe descends into a colored hell (we’ve been in black and white up to this point). It’s like the Wizard of Oz…on acid. Oh, and with boobs. Still, the visuals here are worth taking note of. Shunning the traditional view of hell, Marins (serving as Joe, writer, director and producer once again) opts for a snowy hell instead of the traditional fiery one…instantly giving us something new. [People in the Midwest, particularly around the January/February time frame, will certainly appreciate the fact that someone has visualized the snowy hell they go through in winter…mostly. – Ed.] And while the budget really isn’t there to make this hell terribly convincing, they mainly achieve what they were trying to go for…with tortured souls embedded within the walls and flailing limbs embedded in the ceilings and floors. The only weak part of this sequence are the red painted guys going around and unconvincingly poking the tormented with pitchforks…honestly, they look more like tridents. There you go, this hell was brought to you through a generous donation from Poseidon Tridents: If you’re ruling the seas or skewering the souls of the damned…or if you’ve decided you’ve taken enough shit from your kale salad, remember Poseidon Tridents and fork like a god. Joe travels in this underworld suitably unnerved, keeping in mind both the curse of the pregnant woman he’d killed as well as his own capitulation that he broke one of his few guiding morals…he’s killed a child…until he confronts ol’ Scratch himself [That would be the devil. Or a devil. Look, stop trying to confuse the good people…we hardly get any visitors here to begin with. – Ed.]…and this devil is a more Technicolor-friendly version of himself. Can Joe escape? Can he be redeemed? Will the pregnant woman’s curse possess his corpse at midnight just like in the title? You’ll have to watch and see for yourself.
Again, it has to be said that we’re dealing with a low budget Brazilian feature from the mid-60s, so when critiquing the film, you have to accept it on its own terms…not by the terms of what horror cinema was doing in countries where the art of cinema was more technologically advanced…and through that window, much like the preceding film, I found a lot to enjoy here. The strange pastiche of Universal horror and a more edgy style or horror that really wouldn’t make its way to American cinema until George A. Romero’s groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead gives these movies their own unique flavor that while I can see that they would be divisive, some will like, some will hate…it still needs to be experienced. The unconventional depiction of hell and the invocation of surrealist cinema, even if it isn’t strictly surrealist itself, is a refreshing twist to the film and helps keep it from retreading material covered in the first film. But ultimately it is Coffin Joe himself that makes the film worth watching in several ways. First, as I mentioned in the previous review, he’s a mix of monster and late night horror host. Most hosts would tell you of their off-screen horror antics…whereas with Joe, well, we’re watching them! The singularly unique trait to these films, or at least it isn’t something I’ve seen yet in reviewing films for the site, is that there are no protagonists to root for here. Joe, to some degree, is right about the people surrounding him. They are small minded, simple people…clinging to old ways and shunning anything…and anyone…that proves to be different. And while Joe is depicted in the first film as utterly irredeemable, here we see that there is a twisted morality to him…and we actually get to see him find his perfect woman and be…well…happy. He proves to be different from the monsters that would follow him: Jason, Freddy, Michael and so forth. He’s not just this killing machine with no redeemable qualities. In fact, with his stance toward children, though I highly doubt this was the intention of Marins at the time, Coffin Joe has strangely become socially relevant in today’s society. Many parents these days are so susceptible to falling prey to this child-worshipping mentality, placing their child above all things, that Joe’s extremism in his own quest to plant his seed and create the perfect human feels like a dark, ridiculous extrapolation of this mentality. We’re given an even greater insight into that once it’s revealed that Coffin Joe will break from his established character to save a child in danger. Two-thirds of the way through the Coffin Joe Trilogy of Jose Mojica Marins, I maintain that these films are a unique experience in horror cinema. Are there any genuine scares? Will these movies keep you up at night? No. Probably not. Heck, they may even gradually become forgettable…but it’s a form of storytelling that is almost uniquely nihilistic: an irredeemable eccentric at odds with an equally irredeemable populace…a horror movie in which there is no side worth cheering for, no final girl that you hope escapes the clutches of this bizarre man.
At worst, they’re something you can have on in the background while trying to impress a girl as you claim to be into world cinema. Either way…check ‘em out.
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