Embodiment of Evil (Coffin Joe)

What is life? It’s the beginning of death. What is death? It’s the end of life. What is existence? It’s the continuity of the blood. And what is blood? The reason for existence!

Embodiment of Evil (Encarnação do Demônio), released in 2008, is the third and final film in the “Coffin Joe” trilogy. Following At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma) (1963) and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver) (1967), Embodiment sees the return of Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe).

Being a Coffin Joe virgin (though I’ve done my research), the opening sequence of sweaty, nervous guards, arguing over law versus true justice, had me hooked. And, at the moment half of Josefel Zanatas’s face appeared through the small window of a steel prison door showing his long curled fingernails gingerly resting on the edge, I knew this film had depth.

Time spent in a mental ward has far from suppressed Coffin Joe’s sole quest in his supposedly ‘immortal’ life. After forty years, he is unleashed, and much like a modern day woman goes searching for the perfect sperm donor, Coffin Joe sets out to find the perfect host for his own specimen. Faithful Igor-esque sidekick Bruno leads CJ through the slums – CJ shaking his head at the changed world around him. This change is most recognized in the balance of a bar scene where Coffin Joe, with his black cape and top hat, is offset by a tough guy wearing a Ramones t-shirt.

In order for CJ to find his perfect woman, Bruno finds him new slaves that only believe in serving CJ until death, the destruction of inferior beings, and the continuity of his bloodline. Could the eugenist Dr. Hilda be the answer? Or is it the mysterious Helena – whose blind witchcraft loving aunts try to rid her of obsession with CJ?

Like any concerned future parent would through scientific technology, CJ tests his subjects to make sure they are viable and worthy through torture and debauchery.

However we quickly see that although CJ has been freed by the physical jail system, he is still imprisoned by past deeds in his mind! Will he still be able to carry out his destiny? Or will it all be undone by those who were destroyed by his wrath – and, perhaps, even by those who survived?

Included in the film, are bits of characters and backstory from the first two films that add to the continuity. This allows one insight so that one does not have to have seen the previous films to enjoy the current. There is plenty of gore, plenty of blood, plenty of boobs, plenty of scenes of hallucinatory hilarity and a possible nod to the mysterious box in Seven. The filmmaking is actually quite superb in that the setup of shots, and overall vision, forgive the absurdity. The final climax, set in an after-hours amusement park, gives just the right final kick.

Extras on this disc are a must. The Fantasia Film Festival footage shows the following these films have. However, the crowd borders on fanatical rather than reverential. When given an award, José Mojica Marins’ acceptance speech is quite humbling – showing his dedication to his work, even in his 70’s, and how others should follow the same motto. “Always persevere.”

The Making of Featurette definitely puts in perspective the legitimate importance of this film, its genre, and its maker. Showing the true passion of a 40 year old dream, the end of a trilogy, and all the pain, sweat, and tears that went into making it – the featurette enlightened this viewer and bumped up my personal respect for sure.

In the end, Embodiment of Evil is the perfect ending (or is it beginning?) for the Coffin Joe trilogy.

Official Score