Friday, July 31

Embodiment of Evil (2008)

A.K.A. Encarnação do Demônio
Directed by José Mojica Marins
93 Minutes / Anchor Bay Blu-ray (United Kingdom) / 1080p 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Josefel Zanatas (Coffin Joe) is released after forty years of imprisonment from the events in 1967's This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse to once again try to continue his eternal bloodline through the birth of a son. Though Zé do Caixão must contend with corrupt authorities, blind mystics, a young monk vowing vengeance, and his own haunting visions of past victims to reach his life's goal.

Honestly, this is one of the most impressive third features in a horror trilogy I've ever seen, especially with a four decade separation from the first two. Marins' triumphant return never once feels like a cash-in to capitalize on the creeping international discovery of his signature character. Marins simply is Zé do Caixão and offers a realization of his Brazilian icon that's just as assured as his debut in At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. Even if one doesn't care for the film, it's simply wrong to condemn the commitment Marins doles out with every frame. As Coffin Joe says at one point while looking into a mirror, "true men never give up.", whilst casting off those who believed he'd never return.

That said, this isn't my mind trying to compensate for disappointment after all the hype, Embodiment of Evil fucking delivers and not just for Joe of the Coffin fans. A newcomer need not see the first two as any mysterious characters, like the past victims cast in scratchy black and white, are explained with flashbacks from Midnight and This Night. Special note goes to Raymond Castile for a great splitting image and performance as a young Coffin Joe during the newly shot (and seamlessly integrated) connective footage between This Night and this film. Of course, watching or at least being familiar with his two '60s classics helps. One character in particular, Joe's facially deformed hunchback sidekick Bruno from This Night, is the first to greet his master at the prison gate despite now being an old man himself. It's small details like this that really bring out a cool sense of series continuity. Marins directs the project with such fresh style I had to check to make sure he was at the helm.

Coffin Joe never really left; as Marins has kept the character alive in other films, television, comics, and public appearances all these years. Joe's confrontational existential diatribes are in-toe and kick off immediately as a gaggle of antsy guards prepare to release him from his cell. The feeling of the character being an uneasy patriarch of the community is there just like in the other two films. Joe saves a child from back alley execution and somberly attends a funeral...before shouting at the mourners minutes later for "negotiating with their God" and commanding everyone to leave at once.

There's also a wild experimental piece where Joe winds up in the "center of everything" and is guided to a barren land where men are cannibalistic savages and women eat the genitalia off their screaming male victims. On top of all this, the film manages to pack in interesting fleeting "moments" like Joe shaking his head in sorrow as he passes by two young boys huffing out of plastic bags on a city street at night. This coming from a man who killed thirty men in prison!

The violence, general weirdness, and full-figured woman nudity is amped up from Embodiment's predecessors. Gore isn't too abundant; but knivings, eating of flesh chunks, cockroach terror, and S&M performance artists doubling as the innocent in agony abound. You also get naked chicks held prisoner, threatened by vicious dogs, branded by hot pokers, drenched in blood, receiving rat vagina munching, and screaming like banshees at fiery witchcraft rituals.

In short, Zé do Caixão's grand conclusion is fucking awesome and any naysayers be damned. See and own all three in this spectacular trilogy.

Anchor Bay U.K.'s region-free Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. The 1080p 1.78:1 MPEG-4 AVC transfer doesn't appear to be digitally filtered and features an appropriately rich texture. The two lossless audio tracks, PCM stereo and TrueHD 5.1, are crystal clear. It's a shame there couldn't be more supplemental material, but the short making-of featurette is well worth a look. Despite all the problems with the studio's Coffin Joe DVDs, this high def presentation is a must own.

BD Picture: 9/10
BD Sound: 8.5/10

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