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- Published on Amazon.com
[Embodiment of Evil - (2008) - co-written, starring and directed by Jose Mojica Marins - widescreen presentation] Horror fans rejoice, as this film marks the return to the screen of Coffin Joe (Jose Mojica Marins), the gruesome graveyard caretaker, murderer, torturer and existential executioner of exploitation extraordinaire. And it's a helluva homecoming, establishing a new watermark in the annals of contemporary horror films and redefining the horror/exploitation genre for a new generation. In this transgressive terror tale, Coffin Joe makes Freddie, Myers, Jason and Leatherface look like cub scouts or altar boys. No horror enthusiast/collector should miss this one. Even if you don't agree with my previous remark.
After serving 40 years in the mental wing of the Sao Paulo State Penitentiary, Josefel Zanatas, Coffin Joe's birth name, is finally being released, not for good behavior, he killed nearly 30 men during his term there, but through an administrative decision, overcrowding and the financial burden of keeping him in solitary confinement. His re-emergence back into a society he loathes will be a simple one, as he is greeted by his faithful hunchbacked servant, Bruno, and they prowl the streets witnessing extreme poverty, prostitution, drug use, crooked cops killing kids they deem irredeemable and too young for prison, and a military so corrupt they torture innocents into confessions before doing away with them in the most heinous way possible; that is until Coffin Joe puts his agenda into play.
Upon the return to his lair, whose upkeep was Bruno's loyal labor of love all these years, Coffin Joe mutters, "Perfect", when in fact this place would make Dracula uncomfortable. The modern gothic creepiness of the surroundings and its accoutrements is sickeningly splendid. Bruno has also recruited four new 'apprentices' to undertake the missions of CJ, and their tasks are not the type dictated by Donald Trump, I assure you. Now the carnage and butchery begins anew, and these events make scenes in 'Saw' or 'Hostel' seem sometimes tame in comparison. CJ still espouses his blasphemous, anti-biblical philosophical diatribes throughout the movie, peppering each scene of insanity to add almost operatic overtures to the gruesome and ghastly imagery heaved upon us with near projectile-vomiting brutality. There's no downtime, no flat, static or dry moments to even catch our breath; the plot was constructed to maximize the onscreen onslaught of audacity. We're continually barraged with flinching scenes of torture, barbarism, cringing crucifixations, scalping, skinning, whipping, dismemberment, flesh-eating bugs and a scene with a rat you'll never forget - you know, the things fans of this psychotic cinema want and expect from these flicks. No disappointments here, the 'rituals of purification' are the most disturbing you'll find - it makes a Bosch painting look like a church-sanctioned Da Vinci fresco. This is madness in a class all its own.
As in the first two flicks from the 60's ('At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul' and 'This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse' - there was a third film that's totally ignored here by all, `Awakening of the Beast', one of my favorites, but I believe it's being ignored due to the plotline here is a continuation from the second film) the saga of Coffin Joe searching for the right woman to have his 'perfect' child subtext (and isn't that what it always comes right down to - the search for a 'soulmate' in every romantic comedy and drama throughout history? See folks, Coffin Joe's just an extremely misunderstood romantic at heart) is still vital to the story and referenced continually in nightmares, flashbacks (done in B+W, like the earlier films), hellish hallucinations and spectral haunting from his past female victims, who also appear in B+W. It's a great effect in the context of the film.
In spite of this entire demented phantasmagoria, the film has a clear, linear plot, great dialogue, mood, settings, a strong budget and alarmingly realistic special effects that are never reduced to CGI effects, as detailed in the 'making of' featurette. There's also abundant nudity heaped upon us (some gratuitous, some plot essential, all of it enjoyable) along with the extreme hyper-violence and gore that's near heart-stopping - yes, kids, there's something here for everybody. I was impressed from start to finish (but that might be admitting there's something dreadfully wrong with me...) and I'm a harsh critic of modern horror films.
The fourth act is supremely and sadistically satisfying, and a posthumous-procreation finale results in a perfect ending and set-up for a sequel insuring the legacy of Coffin Joe is far from over (let's hope we don't have to wait nearly so long for it, Marins is already ancient). After all, he is 'The Embodiment of Evil, isn't he?