Saturday, October 10, 2009

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964) & This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967)

As far as I can tell, Jose Mojica Marins basically pioneered the Latin American horror movie at about the same time that the British, Italians, and Japanese were all launching into the worldwide exploitation market. And like most of those movies, JMM's work is raw, pulpy, and an expression of raw id. Marins' alter-ego, Coffin Joe, is basically the world's worst undertaker, with an ego of colossal, Nietzche-esque proportions and a worldview somewhere between Hitler and Ayn Rand on the subject of the need to extend his bloodline by murdering whatever subhumans will get in his way.

Some critics have had a problem with the politics of Marins' films, and it's not hard to see why, since Coffin Joe (more technically, 'Ze de Caixao') is pretty much the only character in either of the two Marins movies that I've seen, with everybody else basically just showing up to cringe at or be enraged by Coffin Joe's antics.

Yesterday night the Silent Theater showed Marins' first two Coffin Joe pictures. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is a fairly modest c-level production elevated, more than anything, by Marins' performance as Joe and his own ability to create mood. The plot is pretty flimsy - Joe wants women to bear him children, and kills a few people when they become obstacles - but it all works with a surprising degree of mood and gore, not to mention some blasphemy; the opening scenes take place on a Friday, and Joe rants about wanting to eat meat, and proceeds to blatantly chew on a leg of lamb while watching the local villagers in a religious procession outside his window, chuckling the whole time.

At Midnight was just the dress rehearsal for This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, a bigger, more violent, more outrageous sequel. Coffin Joe, brought back to life after the events of the previous movie by a retcon line of dialogue, is more intent on ever on his goal of creating a master race with the perfect woman, and basically kidnaps and auditions a group of young ladies for the job. If there's such a thing as tarantula-porn, this movie is it, with spiders crawling all over a gaggle of young women in nighties.

The high point of the movie, though, is a sequence in which Joe find himself transported to Hell, witnessing the torments of the damned in gory full-color. It's a crazy sequence, but it's marred by venturing out of the black and white mood created up to that point - seeing all the crappy papier-mache sets in full color causes them to lose a lot of their charm.

(I have more to say on these films but right now I've gotta go to the New Beverly's 12-hour horrorthon. Until later.)

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul: 6/10
This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse: 7/10

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