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Film Review: This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse (1967)

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SYNOPSIS:

Coffin Joe is still looking for the perfect woman to give birth to a son of his, and, cleared of the past crimes in the first film (At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul), keeps terrorizing the people in his small town with his iconoclast and sadistic practices.

REVIEW:

***Spoiler Alert – This review will unintentionally contain spoilers, as this film is a direct sequel of another. It will not have spoilers of this film, but of the first in the series***

1964’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul introduced us to Ze do Caixao, aka Coffin Joe, a gravedigger with a distaste for religion and a strong desire to father a son in order to carry on his legacy. That film also seemingly concluded the story of Coffin Joe, as we last saw him in a tomb, seriously injured, or worse, just as the clock struck midnight. However, in 1967’s This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse, we continue that story directly from where it left off, and we see the crazy old undertaker wake up in the hospital, lucky to be alive. After being found not guilty of his crimes from the first film due to insufficient evidence, Joe sets out to continue his previous plans, but now with more focus and a lot more malevolence.

Jose Mojica Marins is again wearing a variety of hats for this production: director, writer (along with co-writer Aldenora De Sa Porto), and lead actor, reprising his role as Coffin Joe. But This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse takes a decidedly darker tone than its predecessor right from the start. In At Midnight… Coffin Joe spends the first part of the movie being bossy, and flirtatious with women, and trashing religion by eating meat on Friday. By the fifteen-minute mark of this film, Joe has already kidnapped 6 women in hopes of finding the right one to be his wife and have his child. And how does he choose his “lucky” lady? By releasing spiders into their bedroom at night and watching to see which one stays calm. Which is crazy, because that’s the same way I chose my wife.

The other five are sent away: one goes to Bruno, Joe’s hunchbacked assistant (played by Jose Lobo), only to come back dead; the other 4 are locked in a room full of snakes and die slowly while Joe and Marcia (the woman who stayed calm, played by Nadia Freitas) get intimate just above them. But as the last girl dies of snake venom, she curses Joe (again?), and, of course, this will come back around.

When you’re the director and the star, you get to pull some strings, which is how this creepy, somewhat pretentious gravedigger with a unibrow ends up in the embrace of so many attractive women. After getting with Marcia, he tells her he saw love in her eyes, which is a sign of weakness, so she cannot be the mother of his child. He sends her off and ends up meeting Laura (Tina Wohlers), another beautiful woman who also happens to share a lot of his viewpoints on religion and humanity. Her brother, Claudio, does not like them together, and offers to pay Joe to leave the city. Instead, Joe smashes Claudio with a large stone block, frames Claudio’s bodyguard for the murder, and has sex with Laura during her brother’s funeral. Damn, that is ice cold. But you know what they say about karma…

The entire tone of the story shifts when Joe overhears that one of the women he threw in the pit of snakes, the one who cursed him as she died, was pregnant, meaning he killed a child. Inadvertent or not, this tears Joe up and weighs heavily on him. Marins includes a scene just after this revelation that absolutely makes this film: Joe is laying down to sleep when a dark figure pulls him down to the cemetery, where corpses dig out from their graves and pull Joe down with them. Maybe Joe is dragged down to hell, or maybe this is just a paranoid dream, but either way, the fact that the director not only put nightmarish images on screen, but also switched over from black and white to color (and I’m talking Dario Argento/Suspiria color), makes for a memorable and influential moment in horror cinema.

If you like your horror dark and psychological and blasphemous, This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse is an absolute must see. And seeing how Synapse Films just recently released a Coffin Joe trilogy collector set (this movie, At Midnight… and 2008’s Embodiment of Evil, along with a ton of extras), this is the perfect time to check out these Brazilian horror classics. I enjoyed At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul for what it was, but I have to admit, This Night… makes the first movie look weak by comparison. Both can be watched as stand-alone films, but I’d recommend watching them in order to get the whole picture.

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