You know, college is a very weird experience. I feel like its en vogue to shit on college these days, but I will give you a big thing I learned from going to college: learning from people who fundamentally have a different way of looking at the world.
And who knows, everyone can learn something along the way.
I met a guy who was about as different from me as possible, BUT we both had a mutual love of horror movies. And he was only into shit that, especially at the time, I thought was really obscure. Shit like Carnival of Souls and House. Dunno how he even heard of that stuff back then, but he told me his favorite horror movie of all time was At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, and he even had an all region copy of it that he let me borrow. Dunno how the fuck he had that either.
Immediately dug it. In fact, I think we became friends over how much I love that movie.
So these days, its easy to find out stuff about this movie, but it is tough to find a copy. Luckily, its bootlegged on youtube (see below). Normally, I wouldn’t be about such things, but really the only way to get it legit is via synapse’s wonderful restoration.
I’m also going to skip the some of the history here. There are other videos about that.
Instead let me just get into that shit I want to talk about.
First off, this is my favorite class of horror movie. Atmospheric. Sure it has more gore than you would think for a film of its time, but it is mainly building atmosphere. No fucking crazy jump scares. No bullshit torture porn. Just genuine creepiness.
This is also a movie that you will appreciate less if you didn’t grow up catholic. Plays into all the catholic fears. One of my favorite moments is right at the beginning where the villain Zé (played by the fantastically named Coffin Joe) decides he wants meat on a day of fasting. There is this fantastic shot of a solemn procession with a priest holding the Eucharist and candles, and there is Zé eating a big ole turkey leg…chicken leg…some meat. Offering it to the priest and just laughing.
A note on Zé: I really like how he is just a big piece of shit with no redeeming qualities. Whether its gambling or torturing people, he just has no redeeming factor. To the point where spirits are trying to warn him and he just yells at god to try to take him. Fantastic stuff.
I also fucking LOVE his transformation sequence. The eyes getting bloodshot, fingernails growing out. Long enough for you as an audience member to go, “Oh shit, here it comes. Someone’s gunna get it.”
The film making craft is shockingly polished. I know almost nothing about 1960s Brazilian filmmaking but this film has a great feel for shot composition and what needs to be seen vs. not.
Tension is the game of the day, and that’s what this movie builds out. You are waiting for Zé to get his, and it comes right when it should. Brisk 81 minutes, cant ask for more than that.
Overall, you got a rock solid movie here that doesn’t get enough praise. This should be a Halloween staple, and I am not at all sure why it isn’t. For the record, I don’t think any of the other Coffin Joe movies measure up to this. They do get progressively more insane, but nothing gets this well made.
3.5/4 – Looking for a good Halloween watch in a land of rehashed classics and sequels. Give this one a spin. Unless you decide to take the advice of the old woman at the beginning and SAVE YOUR SOUL!!!!