Is it bad to watch a movie and really identify with the cold-blooded, heartless, misanthropic lead character who just so happens to get his kicks from torturing women and killing people? Is it bad to feel sympathy for someone who is only trying to cleanse humanity of all the bullshit and get people back to a higher state of cold logic where reason is the only God? Is it a bad sign that I agree with Coffin Joe AKA Zé do Caixão (José Mojica Marins) so much when he’s supposed to be the bad guy?
Maybe there’s something wrong with me. I blame this incredible acid trip of a movie for corrupting my innocent little mind. I always knew one day I’d completely lose it thanks to a movie. Thank you, Coffin Joe.
Zé do Caixão is a simple man with simple dreams. All he wants to do is work at his funeral parlor, hang out with his hunchback manservant, Truncador (Antonio Fracari), not cut his fingernails, wear cool top hats and capes, and smoke his pipe. Oh yeah, he also craves the immortality that can only come from the birth of a son. Don’t we all, brother.
Not just any cum dumpster will do. Not for Coffin Joe’s seed. He needs the most perfect woman he can find, someone worthy who will have the perfect child, a creature without the inherent faults of man, and it doesn’t matter how many nubile young Brazilian women he has to torture with spiders and splatter with acid in his quest.
While a sequel to the wildly-successful “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul,” you don’t really need to have seen the first one to get the second one. Not when you’ve got Technicolor nightmares involving devils whipping naked people, women thrown in pits full of poisonous snakes, poker-fu, and a faithful hunchback. That’s even before you throw in the love story that has nothing to do with love between Coffin Joe and his lovely bride Laura (Tina Wohlers), angry mobs, speeding motorcycles, and a swamp.
While there are plenty of horror aspects in the film, and while Coffin Joe is pretty evil, he’s also what makes the movie so damn interesting. It’s less a shocking series of events and more of a character study, allowing us inside the twisted world of Coffin Joe. His philosophies, his desires, his dreams, and even his nightmares are on display for us to revel in. The viewer is carried into the nightmarish, logical world of this well-dressed undertaker/monster with the well-cared-for nails.
This is not a movie for everyone. You have to have a pretty high level of weirdness tolerance to get into the world of Zé do Caixão, but I’m pretty confident if you’ve gotten this far then you can handle just about anything the country of Brazil can throw at you. So bring on the weirdness, bring on the surreal, and bring on the wine, ’cause it’s always a party at Coffin Joe’s, bitch!
Move over, Jesus! Take a step back, Ben Franklin! I have a new hero taking his place on my internal Mount Rushmore, and he is Coffin Joe.