Embodiment of Evil 

The bearded, beady-eyed, bald Brazilian — aka actor/writer/director José Mojica Marins — dresses in all-black like a past-his-prime TV horror host, complete with cape, medallion, top hat and fingernails so dangly and Guinness World Records-long, it makes one wonder, “How does he even wipe?”

The character is best known in circles of international cult cinema enthusiasts, many of whom seem eager for “Embodiment Of Evil.” With color and somewhat of a budget, it completes a trilogy that began in 1963 with “At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul” and continued in 1967’s “This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse.” More than four decades later, fans finally get closure, although much missed is the title that doubles as a personal threat (I was hoping for “Around 2 O’Clock, Your Ass Is Mine, and I Really Mean It This Time”). The moniker he did grant it sounds much cooler in his native tongue, however: “Encarnação do Demônio.”

So here’s the story: After spending 40 years in the slammer, during which he killed about 30 fellow prisoners, give or take, Coffin Joe is being let loose on the streets of São Paulo. His trusty, facially scarred, hunchback sidekick, Bruno (Rui Rezende), meets him at the gates, and thus, Coffin Joe returns to an alien world of pint-sized paint huffers and milky-eyed gypsies.

Carrying a grudge, he immediately continues what he spent the two previous flicks doing to no avail: seeking a womb to birth his "perfect son, even if it means imploding the entire cosmos!" See, he believes his blood to be all that and a bag of chips. Standing in his way are the corrupt authorities and mad monks, but worse is that Coffin Joe is haunted by his past victims; black-and-white clips from the nihilistic franchise are shown as flashbacks, but his modern-day reactions are the unintended stuff of Mel Brooks parodies.

Half an hour in, “Embodiment” finally means business — if a tiresome agenda it is — as Coffin Joe kidnaps a comely doctor, stabs her with a syringe full of goofy juice, and then cuts off her buttock, which he then feeds her. The blood flows thick and chunky, like Smucker’s red raspberry preserves. Is this considered foreplay in South America?

No matter the answer, ’tis mere child’s play compared to the super-grisly torture that awaits other characters, including — but by no means limited to — scenes of crucifixion, suspension, scalping and having one’s mouth sewn shut. If he weren't an equal-opportunity torturer, one could accuse Coffin Joe of misogyny (but go ahead if you feel like it).

And do you wish to see said septuagenarian romp horizontal in a gooey love scene with a shapely woman (Nara Sakarê) two generations his junior? Too bad!

As if I need to point out, “Embodiment” and/or Coffin Joe concept is not for everybody, nor is it intended to be. While I remain unimpressed with his antics then and now, the visual vibrancy of this particular chapter cannot be denied. Too bad it falls short in all other departments, save for depravity.

For those who fear Coffin Joe as perhaps the real deal, let the record show that at the movie’s Fantasia Film Festival premiere (footage of which appears in the extras on Synapse Films’ two-disc Blu-ray/DVD package), Coffin Joe takes to the stage in full regalia ... then puts on reading glasses.

And speaking of eyes, if you do watch this supposedly installment of horror’s most renowned cock-blocking trilogy, keep your peepers peeled for the kid picking his nose at the end of the funeral sequence. —Rod Lott

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Rod Lott

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