Monday, April 11, 2011

Pure Brazilian Evil

D. Jose Mojica Marins aka Coffin Joe

Synapse Ent.
Blu-Ray/DVD Combo


After nearly three decades in hibernation from the director's chair, Coffin Joe returns to the horror scene with the blood-drenched horror tale that is sure to raise hackles if it ever gets a real release stateside. It is also the third movie in the trilogy that began with the films AT MIDNIGHT I WILL TAKE YOUR SOULand AT MIDNIGHT I WILL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE featuring Marins as the penultimate character of Coffin Joe, an evil gravedigger who doesn't believe in god, morals, or good and evil. Just in the flesh and what he can prove in the here and now. Humans are of no value to him unless he gets immediate pleasure or usefulness out of them. In all three films he is in search of the ultimate woman of superior intellect and breeding to bear him a son and continue his bloodline. Naturally he failed in the first two films.

Here, the film opens forty years later with him being released from prison after serving for all the murders he committed in the previous films. He is being released much to the consternation of the prison officials and police in San Paulo. His hunch back assistant Bruno and several nearly sub-human worshipers await him on the outside and waste no time getting back down to business. He may be in his seventies but he has not slowed down with the need to get laid and to kill! Meanwhile the corrupt cops in the small town are killing the poor locals, the criminals are running extortion schemes, and the priests are closet masochists who hook up electrodes to their nipples for self-abuse purposes. Seems only the town witches and whores are close being honest. Joe finds a beautiful atheist writer who openly gives herself to him for his purposes, and he puts through one of his horrific and painful tests to make sure she is worthy of his offspring: making her eat the flesh of her own buttock. Which she does greedily to prove her prowess. Still, he has his servants kidnap about a half dozen other women from the town to torture and impregnate for good measure. He also catches the local cops beating on his crippled assistant Bruno at one point, leading them to horrors and suffering they could have never dreamed of.

The narrative of EMBODIMENT OF EVIL should be rather simple, but somehow it gets really messy rather quickly. Several plot threads get raised, then forgotten, then pop back up almost at the end of the film. There is this business of Joe being tormented by the ghosts of those he has killed in the past films. It sort of plays into the movie, but awkwardly at best. And when the climax hits, that plot strand pays off in a way that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Really, it is kind of a mess in a lot of ways because what you are left with is a movie of images and nightmares. Thankfully those are the things that Jose Mojica Marins has always done best and he's still in top form here. There is a long trippy sequence where he ends up in purgatory, guided by an old man who shows him the pits of hell below him (not represented by lakes of fire, but instead by landscapes of sand and desert, filled with tortured souls and lakes of blood) which is simply stunning. Preceding that is a moment where he fucks one of the women while corpses above them rain blood upon them until the room becomes an ocean of blood and literally buries them both. Another great scene has Joe cutting open a dead pig and a nude Asian woman emerges that he embraces and kisses. Then there are the vile torture scenes. Scenes that do not owe their power to the SAW/HOSTEL school of film-making since Marins has been doing stuff like this since the sixties. The usual spiders, bugs and other creepy crawlies make appearances, but this time he dowses a woman in molten cheese and has a hungry rat chew into her exposed vagina! People are dunked in vats of blood and guts, crucified, whipped and pierced and hung from the ceiling. A lot of the piercing in the film appears to be for real as well, using actual body modifiers, a practice that once again, Marins started using back in his old B/W films in the sixties. Except back then they were circus performers and geeks.

Which brings me to the question; How and why did 20th Century Fox pick this film up for release? There is no way in hell it can ever get an R rating! Even though it was passed uncut in the U.K. (which mystifies me because almost all of the violence is sexually tinged. Not rape, mind you, but with a healthy does of S+M involved which used to be a BIG no no in the UK). This is about as far from studio safe horror fair as you can possibly get. It's gory, brutal, ugly, anti-religion, anti-government, anti-establishment, and last but not least, NOT in English. You cannot convince me that Fox has any real interest in releasing this, at least not theatrically. Boy, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at the MPAA screening though.

This was co-written by Dennison Ramalho, who directed the short film LOVE FOR MOTHER ONLY (which is on the Synapse DVD SMALL GAUGE TRAUMA) which is excellent. He also directed the second unit. Problem is, often the film feels more like his work that Jose Mojica Marins. The themes of Marins work are all present, but stylistically this is more like Ramalho's shorts, especially in the approach to violence, and in the editing. even the casting of the actresses feels more like Ramalho's shorts and less like the voluptuous sirens of Coffin Joe's previous films. But then, he was also a driving force in getting the project made at all, so I can't complain. I should be grateful that Coffin Joe got another real movie made, on 35mm no less, before he passed out of this mortal coil. Of course, he is still kicking around pretty well, so he may still shoot out another before long. I'd be game for that.

The new Blu Ray/ DVD combo from Synapse is an amazing package. The preceding review was originally done for the British DVD Release. But I have since rewatched the movie from the Synapse release with an audience no less and it has resonated much more with me. Synapse remastered the film from original elements to a 4K Hi Def master with an all new re mastered sound track. So experiencing the film from the Synapse discs is like seeing it for the first time. I still stand by my opinion that the script and story get mighty muddled in the mid section, but a second viewing go a long way to clearing it up. All the elements are there, they just get introduced quickly and several characters look astonishingly alike which makes it hard to follow on first go around. 

Watching this with an audience was a blast. We held a FREE screening here in Dayton and only maybe three people knew Coffin Joe's work. The rest were Virgin's as it were. I figured people would be turned off by the Subtitles but in fact everyone got into it vibe quickly and were way into it. Everyone came out saying they loved it and claiming they saw "things they had never seen before!"

This Blu/DVD package has some fun extras including behind the scenes, a video of the premier at Fantasia and some trailers. It would have been nice to have some more interviews or something, especially considering Coffin Joe's age. But it is still an amazing package. And Seriously, who would have thought we would have a Coffin Joe movie on BLU RAY? Certainly not me!!! 

Review © Andy Copp

This HOBO has shot his wad...

D. Jason Eisner
Magnet Releasing
1.85  VOD and Theatrical

As most of you know HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN began life as part of the SXSW festival contest when GRINDHOUSE came out to have fans create fake trailers in the 70’s gritty exploitation style. HOBO was without a doubt the ONE entry that nailed the vibe best in every way right down to the fonts used  for the on screen credits. If no one told you, one could easily had been fooled to believe it was a lost 70’s film. The fake trailer rightfully won the contest and even played with GRINDHOUSE in Canada.

So naturally it was only right that an actual movie be made from the concept and the Internet community rallied behind the idea. It has taken almost five years to get completed but we finally have a feature film version of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN with a name star in the title role. But the final product lacks that retro punch the original trailer had. In fact it feels more like a modern video game released by Troma, than some lost Grindhouse gem.

Rutger Hauer plays the lead character simply named Hobo, who strolls into a small town just in time to see some poor smchuck trotted into the middle of the street, tortured and beheaded by a crime family. The town is held under the thumb of Drake (Brian Downey) a cartoon Mafioso and his two even more cartoonish sons Slick (Gregory Smith)  and Ivan (Nick Bateman). The Hobo wonders through the town and witnesses other atrocities too like a Pedophile Santa kidnapping kids, a black pimp whoring young teens girls etc. He follows Slick to the hide out and bemusedly watches a whole bunch of people tortured and murdered until we meet Abby the typical Hooker with the Heart of Gold who for some reason prompts the Hobo to finally step in and stop Slick from hurting her. There is some more tit for tat, but his deed ultimately lands him all carved up and with Abby taking care of him for a while.

The movie takes a good forty or so minutes before it gets to the events of the original trailer when he gets the shotgun and starts going ballistic in a scene that is admittedly pretty satisfying. But then the events of the trailer are merged down into basically a montage of him finding and wasting the scum of the town and then it is back to the annoying bad guys and their screen time.

That is the biggest problem with the movie. Whenever the movie is with the Hobo it works just fine. Hauer is committed to the performance and has good chemistry with his female lead. But anytime the movie goes back to the villains, which is often, it just becomes ridiculous. A purposely over the top, offensive, cartoon that is trying too hard to get in your face. Instead it just becomes annoying and ultimately kind of empty. I felt like I was watching a live action episode of SOUTH PARK with Terrence and Phillip as bad guys.

There are a couple of places where the film attempts some social commentary such as a nod to the BUMFIGHTS thing and a well done speech about how the streets are “their” (meaning the homeless) homes and how the people of the town need to have some respect for them. I certainly respected that those moments are there. I just wished the material around them had been as well handled as these few scenes.

By the end of the movie it struck as to why I was not responding to the movie the way so many of my friends and peers have. So many people I know have declared this a modern classic, the “grindhouse” movie done right etc. But near the climax of the movie a pair of armored goons called “The Plague” are sent after the Hobo. In the process they decimate and entire Hospital full of people in a scene that should have had me breathless. Instead it had me bored to tears. This scene and the scene earlier when the Hobo watches Slick in his hideout torture and kill several people for fun clicked with me as to why this movie doesn’t work. It is nothing but a big, bloody, video game. There may not be a HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN video game, but there might as well be because that is exactly how it feels. A lot of these faux Grindhouse movies that have come in the wake of the Rodriguiz/Tarrantino collaboration feel the exact same way. Maximum offensiveness, maximum body count, minimum character or attention to script. Tell them it is a tribute to the 70’s & 80’s movies but instead it plays like you are just a player in a video game.

The last fifteen minutes of this movie feel just like that. Oddly enough 90% of the people I know who watched it, did so on a Playstation 3 if that tells you anything.

So to me almost half the movie works. The scenes with the Hobo interacting with the Hooker as good stuff. The scene with him telling the babies in the Hospital how much their lives are going to suck is pure gold. The scene when he finally gets the gun and goes on his rampage is what the rest of the movie should be like. But nearly all the other stuff felt like some other movie that I really couldn’t wait to be over so I could get back to the OTHER movie I was enjoying.

I get the feeling I am going to get a TON of hate mail over this one...

Original HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN Fake Trailer

New HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN movie Trailer

Review © Andy Copp