Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Embodiment Of Evil (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2008)

Embodiment Of Evil[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?

My initial exposure to Coffin Joe was through Fantoma's box set including "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul," "This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse," and "Awakening of the Beast." I absolutely loved these films for their spacey, pseudo-philosophic criminal worldview, shocking-for-their-time violence, and trippy visuals. I had no idea Jose Mojica Marins had filmed a long-delayed follow up to these films until Amazon emailed the suggestion to me. Naturally I jumped all over the Blu-Ray once I learned about it.

I would compare "Embodiment of Evil" to Dario Argento's "Mother of Tears" for several reasons. Both are more modern looking films by classic directors. Both serve as a sort of homage to each respective director's prime. And both movies are pretty much insane. As a long-time Argento fan, I actually liked "Mother of Tears" a lot more than most. However in comparing these two films, I would say that Jose Mojica Marins' movie was more successful. While both make numerous and welcome references to characters and scenarios of the past films, Marins delves into a sort of meta-fictional territory by having Coffin Joe haunted by his former victims, who appear in black and white just as they were in the sixties films. Marins also imbues his new film with a greater sense of gravitas (despite the inherent silliness of the entire premise) than Argento. "Embodiment of Evil" feels like a logical progression in the series, whereas "Mother of Tears" feels almost like a parody of the classic "Suspiria" and "Inferno."

Marins also touches upon all the elements that made his earlier films great. There is shocking violence (much more intense than the previous films), crazy pseudo-philosophical ramblings, and trippy visuals. There's even a descent into hell just like there was in "This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse," although it looks much different this time around. Argento failed, at least in large part, to recapture the beauty and grandeur of his earlier masterpieces, choosing instead to take "Mother" in a more campy direction.

Moving away from this comparison, I would also say that I hope Marins finds time to film another Coffin Joe movie. Without spoiling the ending, it opens up an extremely interesting possibility for another movie.

Buy Embodiment Of Evil (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2008) Now

This film is very exploitive and gratuitous, but it doesn't look or feel sleazy. The production values look pretty high; and it's also well acted, directed, and the gore FX are very good. It contains some great gruesome imagery, as well as a plentiful amount of nudity and graphic violence. This is a Brazilian film, so there's no shortage of nudity; there's full frontal nude scenes in the film, and all the women are really good looking. I thought the films pace is pretty fast, and it has really good replay value. The film will obviously appeal to most horror fans of exploitive 70s and 80s horror, but it also might appeal to many mainstream horror fans because the film looks and feels modern; it isn't a cheap sleaze film. I personally thought it was a great horror flick.

The DVD quality looks great, and the extras are good as well.

Read Best Reviews of Embodiment Of Evil (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2008) Here

If you're like me, you adore Coffin Joe's first two films, "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul" and "This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse", and snatched up the UK Blu-ray for the third and last in the series, "Embodiment of Evil", the moment it came out. When I saw that a US Blu-ray was put out, I ignored it for a while. "Why bother when I already own the film on the format?"

Well, upon buying a few Synapse BDs and being highly impressed by their quality film reproduction, I started to wonder if their release for this film was any different from what I already owned, whether there was an appreciable difference in the transfer. I inquired about it, to which I was informed that a whole new master was struck for this release based on a 2K telecine of the film, whereas Anchor Bay's UK release was sourced from an HDCAM tape (not HDCAM SR, but regular, old-fashioned HDCAM from the mid '90s), which has a maximum interlaced resolution of 1440x1080 (rectangular pixels which are then upsampled to 1920x1080 during playback). In other words, this isn't true HD by today's standards, while the Synapse release is.

In addition to that, Don May fixed special effects shots and they look a whole lot better this time around. The overall presentation is just a whole lot more filmic and pleasing to the eyes; color reproduction is beautiful, whereas the UK release looks incredibly drab. A pleasing, healthy veneer of grain graces the image. (I've said it before, I'll say it again: grain COMPOSES the image, and you're bananas if you hate grain in film.)

It's a must-own Blu-ray for Coffin Joe fans and definitely worth upgrading to if you already own the UK BD. The HD footage spliced in from the original films makes me yearn for those two to be released on Blu-ray. As of now, the Brazilian lab has yet to scan the two in HD. Here's hoping that they do so soon. In the meantime, Synapse plan to release them on DVD, and they're sure to be a vast improvement over the non-anamorphic DVDs by Fantoma.

The film? A worthy end to the Coffin Joe trilogy. The fact that it was made forty years after the second film and the story has the same amount of time in between is astonishing. José Mojica Marins plays the character with such elegant ferocity that rivals and even tops his previous performances. The content in the film can be quite extreme at times, so isn't for somebody who has a weak stomach. One example is of a naked woman who is drugged and made to show her loyalty to Coffin Joe and his vision by having her right buttock cut off like Christmas ham and fed to her raw. "For you, I would eat my own flesh." Sure to make some queasy.

Want Embodiment Of Evil (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2008) Discount?

I love this film so much. And I knew it was going to be great. Although it does not carry the same mystique and soul of his first two films, it creates a completely new horrific sense and awareness. I will not go on about the plot, other than to say it is genius. If you are a fan of Ze do Caixao you must do exactly what I did: buy a multi-region player, then buy this film. You'll thank me in the end. Brilliant horror!

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