Monday, March 21, 2011

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

Coffin Joe is a sinner: he eats meat on Fridays. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but in a devoutly Catholic country like Brazil, it's a mortal sin.

Coffin Joe (or Zé do Caixão as he known in his native tongue) has a unibrow, top hat and a very foul disposition. He bullies townsfolk around, harasses Gypsies and threatens to charge double for burying anyone he kills. He is not your ordinary undertaker.

He wants what all of us want: A son to carry on his name. Unfortunately for Joe's wife, she's barren, and can't give him the progeny he deserves. It's also unfortunate for Antônio, Joe's best friend, and his girl Terezinha, as Joe devises a plan to inseminate Terezinha. But first he must get his own wife and Antônio out of the way.

Brutally, sadistically, Joe does away with them. He poisons his wife with a giant spider, then he bludgeons Antônio before drowning him in the bathtub. Coffin Joe quickly then puts the make on Terezinha. Of course, she's not having any of it, as she suspects Joe of treachery.

Running around in a top hat and a cape can definitely spoil your reputation. As can flaying the insolent with bullwhips and stabbing them with broken bottles. And when Terezinha rejects him, Joe punches her repeatedly in the face, knocking her unconscious. He then rapes her. (Joe is a serious douche. How he's evolved into something of a folk hero is beyond me.)

When Terezinha awakes and finds herself bloodied and abused, she vows she'll never have Joe's baby. She'd just as soon kill herself as spawn anything from her violated womb. But before she takes her own life, she swears revenge upon Joe, and promises she'll be back for his soul one midnight when he least expects it...

Hey, Joe, a word of advice: Don't go lurking around graveyards on the Day of the Dead. There are more than a few pissed off spirits on the prowl.

But fear isn't something Joe cottons to, so wander among the headstones he does. And it isn't long before vengeful ghosts set upon him and exact their revenge.

Directed by José Mojica Marins • Unrated • 1964 • 84 minutes

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