Mar 28, 2011

Embodiment of Evil


Following the beeline of gossip trailing behind the glorious Blu-Ray release of Coffin Joe's latest from the hands at Synapse Films, I reflected upon my past review of Embodiment of Evil, a snarled and spitting love letter to the death of Brazil's bogeyman. My early speculation of Embodiment of Evil had been a swift hammer to the face for I had heard no news of this reprisal to an unanswered rumination of a trilogy and when it finally hit, you couldn't have believed my excitement. Coffin Joe, Zé do Caixão to the natives, accumulated a mass proportion of my favorite film lists, each experiment in narcissistic iconoclasm being a far varying departure than the last. So it is safe to say that Coffin Joe has always offered genre way-points, if not for his Portuguese portmanteau films then surely for his dabbling in mockudrama drugsploitation and appearances in various oddities bordering pornographic material. This is partly to blame for why I was so hesitant to embrace Coffin Joe's latest film, Embodiment of Evil. I feel as if I wasn't entirely receiving the images in a proper mindset and after watching it twice more, I have softened up to the prospect of a meaner, postmodern Zé do Caixão but in no way do I accept Embodiment of Evil as being anywhere near the same degree of artistry as many of his past endeavors have turned out.

Beginning with the only remnants of past memory, the film opens up with a note of such etched fear as to promote the lasting effect of Coffin Joe's trademark to send a pack frightened prison guards to release Coffin Joe out into the wilds of São Paulo, home of José Mojica Marins. When Coffin Joe is granted freedom from the prison that held him for 40 years, he is greeted by humpbacked henchman Bruno who returns from his debut in This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse. One thing to be understood is that Embodiment of Evil is a return to finalize a trilogy some 40 odd years after it had been midway. It seems obligatory to return to the core of the franchise but to equip it with new parts, especially after such silence. However, Marins didn't properly lubricate said clockwork and Embodiment of Evil spends its time relaying a story automaton in nature. His quest for the continuity of blood begins as he walks down the streets of São Paulo at night, witnessing children on the street inhaling substances. His re-assimilation into his natural habitat comes off as a strange place, one that he does not recognize. This same idea can be firmly applied to Marins' resurgence into the filmmaking world, quite an allusion for quite a tale. This only fuels the deliberation that images don't die but legacies sure do. As Ty E noted in the midst of discussion, Embodiment of Evil is much like Wes Craven's New Nightmare - a rediscovery after hiatus and an attempt to rekindle and redefine the formalities of an auteur signature with reflective filmmaking. If Embodiment of Evil stood as a monument, it would definitely be a reminder to the death of Gothic horror. An atmosphere is occasionally emulated by Marins within Embodiment of Evil but is soon cast out in favor and breasts, bleating, and blood.

Embodiment of Evil is more of a testament to a form of literal horror, philosophy intact. You'll observe the musings of everyone's favorite dark philosopher contently only to then switch scenes to graphic displays of torture, all the while, Coffin Joe is being haunted by his victims of the past in crude A Christmas Carol fashion. One of this films, and many currents in the world of horror's, greatest detractors is the inclusion and fixation on modern alternative "culture", especially in a film whose metaphysical brooding is interrupted with every nod to edginess. To point fingers directly at the source, a tattoo artist, Zumba, who was selected to portray one of Coffin Joe's servants, makes up a good amount of screen time as a bidding worshiper of Coffin Joe's practices - the four slaves putting their life in his hands. It might seem like such an innocent and superfluous aspect to ridicule and point out but when any scene of Coffin Joe's lengthy and brilliant monologues is cut short with a silly focus on an even sillier expression, irritation can only describe so much suffering, now can't it? Not to mention the fact that this blank and chubby face will leave even the most jaded cynic in any audience struck down with a fit of giggling. This brings me to my other displeasure of Embodiment of Evil - the editing. I found more often than not, the scene transitions were utilizing a dynamic sliding effect. Something you'd see being exercised and much more fitting in a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. Not only did this subtract from the films overall presentation and polarized, if farther, from the originals, it also added a whirring "whoosh" sound clip every time that effect took place.

Don't mistake my poisonous remarks as labeling Embodiment of Evil a complete and utter failure. In some ways, many unknown to me, Embodiment of Evil partially succeeds in its torridness and might be the only direction that film could have possibly explored. It is safe to state that Embodiment of Evil is an entirely different breed of beast, one that has been crafted to cater to the dulled sensibilities and the new standards of modern materialistic horror cinema. As a character, Coffin Joe has certainly winded down in his old age. He displays neither the charm nor the confidence as he had during his youthful years. This Coffin Joe is a grumpy, pudgy sort of fellow whose vigor has all but dried up. The same philosophy is intact, however, as Embodiment of Evil only furthers on his classic belief in the superiority of blood over religion, denouncing all gods and seducing and maiming many women to get the perfect son he so desires. Only in this outing, Coffin Joe operates with much more sinister means to achieve his goals. Hallucinatory in chapters and bumbling in others, is Embodiment of Evil a proper vessel for our self-realized "Denizen of dreams" to flourish? Not so much, but is it a strong picture regardless of its many flaws. Though defeated and withered, Marins still channels a fraction of what I'd kill to see again. There is no denying his amiable presence on screen, as archaic as he is. Sadly, what might be considered old fashioned, that vice in which he escaped, outperforms these lamentable exploits. As it stands, I am warmer to the existence of Embodiment of Evil and to the physiological aspects interpolated. If anything, this film sure did invoke a lust for his previous efforts and, oh, how sweet they were upon attention.


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