At last, the true ending to the trilogy. Wait a minute! Coffin Joe SURVIVED at the end of the second movie?!
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It’s forty years in the making, but Coffin Joe’s creator, Jose Mojica Marins, has finished the trilogy that made his name. And yes, he returns to play Ze, Josefel, or whatever you care to call him. Of course, since it has been decades since Mojica has done this, he has aged considerably, so how does he pull this off?
Unlike many horror movie villains, Coffin Joe ages in real time. In the time he hasn’t been torturing and murdering and raping, he’s been in prison. And now, after so many years, the Brazilian authorities have decided to let him go. He’s an old man now, after all. What harm could he do?
Hoo-boy. As it turns out, time has not mellowed out our amoral protagonist. In fact, as soon as he sets foot outside of prison, his old sidekick Bruno is waiting for him, ready to get him back into the business of achieving immortality through getting the perfect woman pregnant with his son. Except this time, Bruno has gathered a bunch of henchmen (or rather, two henchmen and two henchwomen). They start their servitude off by having to prove their worth. How? Coffin Joe demands that they all put guns to their heads and pull the triggers.
So yeah, Ze is back in true form. He wants the same thing, and he still hates the same things. Time has done nothing to deter his hatred of the gods and all the dummies who worship them, and he’s still more than eager to hand out a whipping or two. And now that the world has become a bit more desensitized, and effects have gotten better, Mojica has a whole new toolbox to use when it comes to the nasty shit.
Too bad he decides to put the requisite preaching in the introduction of the movie to a CGI display. It’s a phantasmagoric miasma that turns out to be a depiction of the circulatory system of man, which certainly holds with the theme, that man’s immortality is through blood, specifically passing it on to one’s children. However, Mojica opted for a more subdued and regular credit sequence, rather than the awful shit he’s pulled in the past.
But as far as the gore goes, he’s just gone more over the top than ever before. He’s a pretty theatrical guy, and he spares none of his creative whims on this flick. There is a scene where he kidnaps a woman, drugs her, and then carves off one of her ass cheeks before feeding it to her. He does it with such relish that no one doubts the joy he takes in his work.
And now that the world is more accepting of depicting nasty scenes in cinema, Mojica has gone out and found masochists who love doing bad shit to themselves, in much the same way Takashi Miike did with IMPRINT. One of Coffin Joe’s torture subjects gets hooks shoved through his flesh, and then he’s suspended from them. It’s obvious that it’s real, since the guy who puts the hooks in him is wearing rubber gloves. (Incidentally, that kind of attention to safety detracts from that particular scene. Oh well.) Another victim gets a nail pounded through his hand, and it looks pretty real.
And then there is the scene near the end of the movie when he kidnaps a bunch of women for the sole purpose of torturing them, or so it would seem. He brands them and carves their tattoos off and shoves their faces into barrels of bugs, and he even sews one of them up in a pig carcass. But the most memorable, of course, is when he slathers a woman with molten cheese before shoving a rat in her pussy, AMERICAN PSYCHO-style.
Yeah, Mojica wears his new transgressive influences on his sleeve in this one. In an homage to the blood-fuck scene in ANGELHEART, Coffin Joe rides his beef bus to tuna town in his favorite woman while blood rains down all around them. However, he takes it to the extreme as blood fills up the entire room until it rises over his head and takes him to, you guessed it, the new Hell sequence!
Well, sort of. This time, he winds up in Purgatory, where he finds a group of crucified men getting their guts ripped out and eaten by a bunch of dirty peasants. It turns out that this is an orgy of cannibalism, which includes a very graphic moment when a woman bites a guy’s dick off. It doesn’t just come off; she’s got to gnaw on it. All in all, it’s an ugly scene, but it doesn’t hold the power of the first Hell sequence from THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE. It’s not trippy enough. Everything looks starkly realistic. While unlikely, you COULD possibly see something like this in real life.
A lot of other imagery is pretty creepy, though. In this movie, Coffin Joe is still haunted by his past victims, and they are always depicted in black and white. The first time we see this is when he’s confronted in a beautiful, lush cemetery at night by the ghost of a former rape victim, hanging from a tree. Not only does she torment him with her very presence, she forces a very slobbery, ichorous kiss on him. And during another incident, after years of putting spiders on people, finally someone puts spiders on him.
But for all this movie has going for it (which includes a priest who likes hooking his nipples up to a battery just to give himself a charge), it has one thing that works savagely against it. In AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL, the primary strength of the movie was the character of Coffin Joe. In EMBODIMENT OF EVIL, the primary weakness is the character of Coffin Joe. Let’s face it, Mojica is an old guy now, and so is Bruno, for that matter. Coffin Joe simply cannot be as menacing as he was in his youth. There are times he can’t even walk very well. Ze is supposed to be a scary guy, but here he just comes off as a guy who is TRYING to be scary. Not good enough. In fact, it almost seems laughable, especially as he’s struggling to run near the end of the movie as the authorities give him chase. What it comes down to is this: Coffin Joe didn’t need to come back for another movie. EMBODIMENT OF EVIL exists just so everyone’s
favorite misanthrope can come back and torture people in new and interesting ways. Nothing is advanced here, and nothing new is brought to the table. It would have been much better had Coffin Joe been left dead at the end of the second movie.
(Incidentally, if you’re wondering how Ze managed to survive that ordeal, Mojica does something pretty brilliant. If you’ll remember, Coffin Joe sank to his death, shouting about how he was wrong about God and all of that. It turns out that his conversion was a ruse just to get his pursuers close enough to him to hurt them as badly as possible. Holy shit, he fucking stabs a priest through the heart with a cross! And the guy they got to act as a young Coffin Joe is incredible. Not only does he play the role perfectly, but he looks EXACTLY like Mojica did in those days. No shit, he could be a clone. One might even think he was Mojica’s real life son, but apparently Mojica found this guy on a Coffin Joe fan site, a complete stranger.)
Despite that major, crippling flaw (and the fact that Mojica relies too much on footage from the previous movies), all the grotesqueness of Mojica’s style is enough to not only make the movie watchable, but also very enjoyable. Thankfully, he found a better, realistic way to make his eyes get all veiny in moments of evil passion, the only moments a viewer could believe that he still has Coffin Joe in him.
Ultimately, it’s a fun movie, but if you’re looking for more than just the usual, you’ve come to the wrong place. At the very least, though, it really does bring the trilogy to a satisfying end. Will there be more Coffin Joe in the future? Probably not, but if there is, it will definitely be a different kind of movie.
[SPOILER ALERT! SERIOUSLY, IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE, DO NOT READ THIS PART! THIS IS THE END OF THE REVIEW! THIS LAST SEGMENT IS ONLY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED THE ENDING OF THE MOVIE!]
We’ve seen Coffin Joe come back from a lot of shit, but this is the first time we see him getting stabbed in the heart and actually dying. We even go as far as seeing his tombstone. If there is going to be another movie, Mojica has his work cut out for him. Come back from THAT, motherfucker!Have You Read...?