At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)

DECEMBER 5, 2008


A few weeks ago, a half dozen or so of us went to a friend’s for some drinks and general hanging out, and then around 2 AM someone decided to put on the newest Coffin Joe movie, Embodiment Of Evil (he had a screener copy). Being 2 AM, and me being half drunk and having to read bootleg subtitles, I promptly dozed off and saw maybe 12 combined minutes of the entire thing. But I saw enough to know that I had to get around to seeing the other Coffin Joe films, starting with At Midnight I’ll Eat Your Soul (Brazil: À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma).

Movies like this are the ones I meant to watch when I started doing Horror Movie A Day; friends would talk about them (2 of my friends actually have Coffin Joe inspired email addresses), but I had never seen them, and probably never would if not for my insistence on watching a new horror movie every day. I wish I could fill my week with more movies like that, not obscure DTV garbage no one gives a shit about. Oh well.

Anyway, I was surprised how simple this was, considering how baffled I was at the footage I saw of the newer film (even before I fell asleep, I didn’t have a clue as to what the hell was going on). It’s not exactly the most accessible movie ever made, but it moves from A to B in a coherent manner, the character’s motives and actions are understandable, etc. I was expecting Eraserhead levels of “What the fuck am I seeing?”, but instead I was actually wishing for a little more head-scratching. I like simple movies, but this one has almost no complications or subplots. Christ, the title is actually pretty much half the plot right there.

It wasn’t enough to deter my enjoyment though; it’s definitely a fun and odd little movie. I don’t know how anyone could watch a movie in which a guy threatens to kill someone because they tried to make him follow the rules of Good Friday (no meat) and then announces “I’ll eat meat today even if it’s human flesh!” and not be entertained. Although it did take me back to when I was forced to follow such traditions and would have to eat filet o fish sandwiches at McD’s on Friday during Lent (McD’s was a Friday tradition). But then that brought me back forward to a smarter me that saw the irony in that, and it all evened out.

I also loved a bit late in the movie when some of the townsfolk have begun to fear Coffin Joe and want him to get out of town. One genius figures the best way to do this is to approach him at the bar and get up in his face and make fun of him. Good idea, schmuck! A few minutes later, viewers are greeted to the most amazing ghost effect in the history of cinema. Director José Mojica Marins (who also plays Joe) couldn’t afford traditional special effects, so he simply glued some glitter onto the negative in an outline around the “ghost”. The result, of course, is ridiculous, but awesome. He sparkles!

The poor effects budget also affected the skull department.

Given the movie’s cult status and such, I was surprised at what a slimmed down DVD it was given. The transfer is non anamorphic (nor can it be zoomed, as the subtitles are too close to the bottom and thus would be cropped out), and the only extra is an interview with Marins, who reveals, among other things, that the long fingernails he displays in the movie are now part of his real life appearance. How does he scratch his balls? One thing I definitely would have liked is a piece on Joe's lasting legacy (I understand he's sort of a cult figure in Brazil, across all mediums). I’m sure there’s a better edition out there somewhere, and if not, the upcoming sequel will certainly result in a reissue.

What say you?


  1. I'm a HUGE Coffin Joe fan, and I'm SO JEALOUS that there are screeners of his latest out there and none of them are in my possession. :( Here's hoping the flick gets US release in one form or another.

    I actually saw the second CJ movie, "This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse," first, and I think it actually works better that way--the second movie is much more confidently made and the effects are much better (though still on a no-budget level--Mojica's ingenuity really shines through), and the plot is better too. After that I went back and watched this movie as kind of a prequel, which as I said I think works better.

    If you're looking for head-scratching madness, though, you'll find it in the third movie on the CJ box set that came out a few years ago--"Awakening the Beast." THAT one will give you all the weirdness you can take and then some, IMO.

    Can't WAIT to see the new one.

  2. I was also quite surprised and impressed with this, as I'd heard about it for years. Not like the Paul Naschy movies, which usually let me down. Need to catch up with Marins' sequels though.


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