At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul, dir. José Mojica Marinson February 13th, 2012
Something of a cult horror classic in Brazil, and made in 1963 on a budget of nothing, I guess I was expecting this to be a Hammer horror type thing. And yes, it certainly has Hammer elements in it – dodgy special effects, overacting, an overpowering lead performance (Marins himself). But there are also elements in it you’d never find in a Hammer film (well, let’s say rarely – there are some interesting Hammer films out there too). For instance, there’s a real nastiness at times about the violence in this film – a nastiness which, until lately, you probably wouldn’t have found in Hollywood horror either.
OK, the “plot” makes no particular sense and I shan’t bother expounding it. – Oh, all right! A grave digger – Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe) – wants a child, but his wife is barren, so he murders her, and then murders his friend because he fancies his girl-friend, and then rapes the girl-friend because she won’t sleep with him, and she commits suicide, and he murders someone else, and then all these people come back from the grave and he goes insane. – But, as I say, the plot isn’t really the point. The film really revolves around the character of Zé do Caixão, a figure who terrifies everyone in the community with his casual violence and his seeming omnipotence, which is all based in his essentially scientific outlook and his contempt for superstition. All the other villagers are hamstrung by their superstitions, by their moral values, they cannot rise up again. They try to, but find when they come to challenge him, that they can do nothing against him. Zé do Caixão is indeed some sort of Nietzschean superman-type figure, superior to all because he believes himself superior to all.
To be honest, it depressed me a bit that superstition got the last laugh in the end – but I guess that’s the way the film was headed.
p.s. I have more interesting films from Brazil for cinematic challenges, so I would prefer this not to represent Brazil for me. I also have another 7 films by José Mojica Marins, since I bought a boxset of them. (It looks, from the stills, like he degenerates thereafter into 1960s counter-culture).