This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967)
By: Mr Intolerance on May 24, 2009  | 
DVD
Fantoma (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.66:1 (Non-anamorphic). Portuguese DD 1.0. English Subtitles. 107 Minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Jose Mojica Marins
Starring: ose Mojica Marins, Roque Rodrigues, Nadia Freitas, William Morgan, Tina Wohlers, Nivaldo de Lima, Tania Mendonca, Oswaldo de Souza, Arlete Brazolin
Screenplay: Aldenora de sa Porto
Country: Brazil
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
And so Coffin Joe returns! It took three years for him to do so, his previous film having effectively bankrupted him, but you can't hold a good ghoul down, and so director and star Jose Mojica Marins strikes back from the grave with this, his sophmore effort about the crazed undertaker – this time with the added bonus of colour film to help shock and confront his audience into submission.

Just as in the first film of this delirious, nightmarish trilogy, our boy Z'e do Caixao ("Joe of the Coffins" - Coffin Joe to you) begins the film with a mock philosophical direct address to the audience: "Is life everything and death nothing? Or is death everything and life nothing?" Except now he's grown a monobrow of amazing proportions. We're also told that "This film begins where "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul ended." Accordingly, we get to see the end of that film as well, just to bring the noobs who might have missed its hallucinatory low-budget Universal-on-crack grandeur up to speed. Well, there is one slight add on, which is only noticeable due to the inferior film stock of the earlier film – somehow Z'e survived the Grand Guignol ending of the first film (fucked if I know how, as he wasn't looking too good at the end of it), and off he's taken to the hospital by the locals (again, the reason boggles the mind given how much of an arsehole he was at the end of the previous film – all the way through it, now I think about it) to save him.

Amazingly enough, after the surreallist, infernal imagery of the credit sequence, which certainly bodes well for this film as being even nuttier than its predecessor, we find out that a court of law has insufficient evidence to prosecute Z'e for his prior misdeeds, as heinous as they were. WHAT?!?! After everything we saw him do?! How is that actually possible? Now that Z'e has survived the condemnation of this world as well as the next, you can only imagine how insufferable he's become – if he had a superiority complex before hand, just imagine what this Social Darwinist freak is like now! Look out, villagers...

Having donned the top hat and cape, and still with disturbing talon-like fingernails (you look at fingernails like that and only one question springs to mind: how does he wipe his arse?), Z'e comes back into town, convinced of the fact that he's great and that everybody else is rubbish, and he'd like to prove it, too. He is not exactly met by the welcome wagon, with every mother-fucker running for safety as soon as they cop an eye-full of his black-clad arse. Z'e takes up residence in the funeral home again, this time with the company of his 'where the fuck did he come from' hideously scarred and hunch-backed manservant Bruno (who I'm positive is played by one of the square-jawed cowardly and inept hero actors from the first film under a welter of make-up). The crazed misanthropic philosophy is still present, as is the odd sympathy towards children, as Nature's greatest creation. Ooh, he's a contrary fella is this Z'e – and it seems that he still has leaving an heir on his mind. Even after saving a child from certain death, the villagers distrust him – but then, given his sometimes murderous proclivities, they are most likely right to do so.

Ze's plan to sire a child goes into immediate effect, and we're faced with a montage of comely young wenches being kidnapped. Is this some kind of diabolic 'try-before-you-buy' scheme? Could be, but regardless it seems that no-one is safe from Ze's over-active groin. "Man is only immortal through the fetus!" Z'e tells us – and maybe he's right but I don't necessarily need to see him put that into practise... Or at least, so he preaches to the harem he's built up to the contradiction of the lie he's just told the townsfolk that he's innocent of the kidnappings – although he's also raised the quite valid point of who amongst us is innocent in the long run?

Still by this point we're riffing on the Universal-style horror of the 1930s; the gothic look, the atmosphere, and more to the point, the black and white film stock, but even as At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul upped the ante in terms of weirdness, so this film is doing, albeit in a much more confident, if slow-burn, style. Trampling on the values of society of the day, Marins is making us question what we believe in against what as animal beings we really ought to value. That Nietzschean/Sadeian idea of the individual who can triumph against humanity's follies and flaws is still paramount here.

And so the weirdness really gets going, with Z'e obviously deciding that one of the tests to find his perfect woman involves introducing a large number of tarantulas into the girls' dormitory. I really don't like spiders – if the scene in the first film when Lenita was bitten to death by one spider was enough to chill my blood, this was really going over the top – sort of like that scene in Fulci's The Beyond, but done believably, and without mechanical spiders. Watching real spiders clamber all over sleeping women was not fun; I squirmed like a bitch. Watching a tarantula clamber out of a young lady's cleavage was enough to have me throwing blunt objects into every dark corner of my living room, watching several of them climb all over her pudenda covered only in tight leopard-print panties (her pussy, not the spiders) had me lurking in the one pool of light in the living room (I have to watch horror films in the dark, otherwise they tend not to work), waving a poker at any shadow that moved. While this was no Kingdom of the Spiders in that regard, I was still not a comfortable chappy. I don't like spiders – the idea of them crawling all over me is enough to have me go into paroxysms, much like many of the women do here. One of them does not, and guess who Z'e has in mind for his concubine?

I guess one of the contradictory points of these films is that Z'e is obsessed with life, and yet is so hell-bent on the death of others to prove its importance. He won't let people stay alive if he thinks that they are likely to breed normal folks – those he sees as shackled to the values of the day (in that regard he's almost the living, breathing incarnation of the counter-culture, just hateful as opposed to being all about the love); god-fearing, puritanical folk who fear anything that's different, like him, and start wars, violence and other cultural discord – it's kind of contradictory, and yet not, depending on how you look at it. Remember, he's not really a part of our society, if you need justification. And right about here, he's moved into mad scientist mode, again a la the Universal films of the 30s – lots of machines making odd noises and lighting up as soon as you'd look at them. Still waiting for the colour footage...

One thing I must say, is that this film doesn't have the nasty violence of the first one, and some of the deaths happen off-screen, which for the extreme horror fan is a little disheartening. I liked the fact that the first film was a brutal and nasty, visceral affair, and at this point, it simply doesn't measure up in the slightest, even though plot-wise it's a hell of a lot more insane. Although we do get yet again the awesome dramatic irony of Z'e shouting about how much he hates dramas – yeah, right. Have you checked your acting style lately, dude? I thought not. His control of his monobrow should be enough to tell us that...

Mind you, Z'e's use of acid as a persuasive tool certainly brings that whole idea of nasty violence back to life – melting someone's face as one option, being raped by Bruno the disfigured mutant hunchback as a second and heading through Z'e's door of the unknown as the third – well, you choose, really. It's not really that much of an option, I guess. All the while, Z'e has his mind firmly set on making the beast with two backs with Marcia, the girl who has won his affections through not being scared of the spiders, and being a woman of cheap virtue, and he wants some of that action right here and right now. Just so happens that she's the best looking one of the lot, not that the other girls are the types you'd be turning your nose up at.

And can I just tell you that the loony Sadeian element gets played up even further at this point – when you thought Z'e couldn't get any weirder, man, could you be more wrong? So, rooting a chick while watching a bunch of her friends being poisoned to death by snakes – not exactly normal behaviour, to put it mildly. Spiders AND snakes?! This is not adding up to the kind of thing I'd put on repeat watch; two of my least favourite creepy-crawlies in the same film – thanks so much Signior Marins, way to make me feel really uncomfortable. Especially when you're having sex over the top of that; bleeargh. Marins must have been a hell of a director to work for – I thought Hitchcock was an arsehole if the stories of his having attached all those seagulls to Tippi Hedren during the filming of The Birds were true, to make things look more realistic, but didn't have his actresses covered by a swarm of tarantulas, or draped with a multitude of snakes, creatures people are generally understandably (given the fact that many of both are quite bitey and venomous, and in the latter case if not venomous, then rather squeezy; apparently one of them got very squeezy on set with an actress indeed) quite scared of.

I'm still waiting for the colour scenes, and we're making way steadily through the film. Come on, for fuck's sake... Like I want to watch scenes of Z'e sucking on his meerschaum pipe in black and white? No, I sodding well don't, but those opening credit scenes really did hook me in. And I want to see them developed upon, simple as that, and I want 'em in colour. Z'e was cursed by a witch in the first film, although as we saw, it didn't really take. Here he's cursed by one the innocent spider-taunted, snake-festooned young lovelies; she states that not only will she be back to get him from the after-life, but that he'll never have a son no matter what he does. Unperturbed, he carries on with doing evil.

And so Z'e turns up to the party of Laura, the Colonel of police's daughter, without having been invited to it – but he thinks she might be his special pregnoid lady, having seen her, and liked what he's seen. But still, he's not too sure, and doesn't know whether or not she's fooling him through her lack of fear of his cruelty and evil. One more test is having to happen, and we all know it's liable to be a doozy. Still waiting for that colour footage, though. One thing that we get in this film that we didn't in At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is Z'e's full name – Josefel Zanatas; I'm just going to suggest that the surname bears a striking resemblance to the Greek word "Thanatos", meaning death (remember Thana from Ms .45? Works the same way here) – heavy-handed on the symbolism? Nah, surely not. I mean, that'd be like naming your villain Mr Evil.

Z'e keeps on keeping on, working his way towards the woman of his dreams. His single-mindedness is admirable, even if his reason for it isn't. He really, really wants a son, and the most likely chick is really not too keen on the whole scenario. Let's face facts, he's not exactly the most eligible bachelor in town. What with the whole 'evil' thing going on and all... His plan seems to be a circuitous one to put it mildly; it involves crushing Laura's brother's head, beating local strong-man Truncador at poker (anyone who'd take Z'e on at poker after the first film is a moron, or not too terribly attached to their fingers) and making a great amount of loot at the same time from the two different sources, before he turns his attention to the lovely Laura. Personally, I think he's got his priorities wrong. But it does give him the chance to have another corker of a rant about the non-existence of god and the primacy of Nature, a la de Sade; a friend of mine once described this kind of acting as the sort you could buy at the deli for $10.99 a kilo off the bone. And the mugging, oh the mugging – at one point of the film Z'e is I think meant to be exhibiting signs of lust towards Marcia; he approaches her, eyebrow cocked, lids twitching and his lips moving in an extraordinary fashion – I thought he was having some kind of fit.

Z'e finds out one of the women he killed had actually been pregnant at the time, and now remember that he holds children up as being sacrosanct, and at the beginning of the film risked his own life to save one; it begins to un-seat his reason (by his standards) – he has killed something that he actually has feelings for. This is the point where the film goes completely crazy-8 bonkers; a very sinister and skeletally thin featureless black monstrosity has turned up in Z'e's bedroom and drags him to the underworld, assisted by the corpses of the innocent murder victims tearing their way out of their graves, covered in worms. And once we get to Hell, that's where the colour sequence of the film begins, and it was certainly worth the wait.

Anyone trying to make an image of Hell is basically limited by imagination only; budget be damned. Think Teruo Ishii's Jigoku, or Lucio Fulci's The Beyond – neither film had a budget really worth speaking of, but the scenes of Hell managed to disturb, albeit for different reasons. Go back further to Flemish Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch and his Garden of Earthly Delights – over 500 years old and still as unnerving as fuck. Fire and brimstone? Oh please, try to be original at least – Bosch's truly horrific demons and the tortures they inflict upon the sinners they punish, or Fulci's bleak void are far more terrifying than any cliched Christian Hell featuring the kind of devil you find emblazoned on the packaging for fire-lighters for your bar-be-que. Now, say what you want about Marins as a director or an actor, the one thing you cannot deny is the fact that he has vision, a unique and very singular vision. His take on Hell is going to be a very personal one indeed. I'm not going to spoil the imagery for you – you really ought to watch it, but can I just say that the garish use of contrasting bright primary colours out-Argento's Argento, and ten years before Suspiria made us scared of red and blue lighting. The effect is a little bit more comic book than actually scary (think the pay-off shots of Romero's Creepshow and you're on the right track), but you can tell that Marins is revelling in showing us this pretty damn bizarre sequence, and it's the wrongness of a few of the shots that really creates that sense of unease – well, that and the constant screams of pain of the sinners (at 4 am, my long-suffering neighbours must really have been wandering what the hell was going on).

I don't think I should tell you what ultimately happens to Z'e in this film (and there's quite a bit to go – yes, after he's been to Hell – including some neat death scenes and some swell gore), but in the best tradition of the Universal films that obviously inspired this, the townsfolk are a little over having a human monster in their midst, and some of them decide to form a posse – have a look to see what happens; I realise that this hasn't exactly been a glowing review, but it is a good film, and certainly worth a watch, especially if you've seen the first in the series.

In some regards, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse is merely a slightly higher budget re-dux of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. That's not nessarily a bad thing, but there simply seemed to be more spark about the original in my eyes. Both of them have their camp elements, but this one seems to be the campier film, and somehow that seems linked to the higher budget. The plots generally speaking are the same, with Z'e's lethal paternalistic instinct linked to the demise of "inferior" women and anybody who's stupid or unfortunate enough to get in his way. Then of course we have the cod-Libertine/Nihilist philosophy in attempt to shock people on an intellectual or spiritual level. The violence is gruesome, but somehow not as nasty as it was in the first film, despite some truly grotesque scenes which are admittedly few and far between, unfortunately. The special effects are marginally better (although I kind of liked Marins' solution to how to make someone look like a ghost in the first film: glue glitter to the negative! It actually works, in a super low-budget way), and then of course there's the obligatory "insanity" scene after the curse takes effect, which in both films feature some awesome imagery with Marins flailing about wildly while alternating between yelling wildly and laughing.

Kind of like his audience.
Video
An improvement from the original film, and I guess that despite the grain and artefacts which occasionally occur, it is sharper, noticeably so as the film progresses, and with the added bonus of some colour (and the colour scenes look a hell of a lot better than the black and white), the picture is better than that of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. I'd hoped for a better presentation, but Fantoma did not deliver.
Audio
Yet again, a flat and lifeless mono Portuguese audio track, full to the brim with more snap, crackle and pop than a bowl of breakfast cereal. It gets better as the film progresses, but surely something could have been done to improve this?
Extra Features
There's a cool 37-page reproduction of an old Coffin Joe comic – thankfully it's been translated into English – and it certainly reaffirms what I was saying about his indebtedness to the EC horror comics of the 50s; a moral tale of sex and voodoo laden with poetic justice. Coffin Joe isn't a character in the story, but the narrator, kind of the the Cryptkeeper, just not so annoying. I did find it funny that images of our funereal chum do turn up throughout the comic, often adjacent frames of our scantily clad villainess, especially when she has her boobies out. There's also the same three theatrical trailers for some Coffin Joe flicks as were on the previous disc – At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and Awakening of the Beast.

There's also an interview with director/star Jose Mojica Marins, which, as with the doco on the previous film in the series despite it's brevity is well worth your watching – I was especially entertained when he matter-of-factly admitted to twisting the fingers of an actress with pliers off camera to get the appropriate reaction on camera, as well as setting off explosions on set for the same reason, before sanguinely stating that professional actors didn't like that, which is why he worked with amateurs. Yup, full-time loony. But he reveals a whole bunch of interesting stuff – as much as the first film was shot inside a 600 square foot set, so this one was filmed (apart from 2 days of external shooting) inside a large disused synagogue on a set that by his own admission was tiny – you couldn't tell from watching it, let me tell you. There are some amusing anecdotes about the Hell shoot (apparently he and the other actors were getting electric shocks through the feet due to poor wiring – watch the scene again and it takes on a different aspect; also, I've never seen popcorn used as snow before), and also about the trials and tribulations of working with spiders and snakes – as before, Marins comes across as quite blasé about the whole thing, complimentary about his actors and self-effacing about the budgetary restrictions, but by and large proud of his endeavours in the world of the low budget shocker – remember that when he started filming his first movie, Brazil had little in the way of a film industry, and basically no horror films to speak of; Marins was definitely a trail-blazer.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
In some regards you could almost see This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse as the Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn to At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul's The Evil Dead. A very similar story handled slightly differently, with a more knowing wink at the audience and some more overtly comedic scenes with a slightly spurious link back to the original film. It ups the gore factor without trying to top the mean-spiritedness of the original and generally has a much more comic book vibe about it. That's not to say it wasn't an enjoyable or entertaining film, to keep up with the Evil Dead metaphor, in some ways it's better than the original – but something seemed to be missing that the budget couldn't cover. And to take the analogy one step further, unlike the original, this one does outstay its welcome and could have been trimmed by at least a good ten to fifteen minutes.

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