At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964) d. Jose Mojica Marins (Brazil)
A gravedigger (played by writer/director Marins after the original actor bowed out) challenges the religious and social customs of his small village, intimidating and threatening everyone in his path with his belief that he is a superior man, free from such common restraints. With his wife Lenita (Valeria Vasquez) unable to bear children, he sets his eye upon the betrothed beauty Terezinha (Magda Mei) of his best friend Antonio (Nivaldo Lima) with murder the means to justify his godless desires.
The birth of Coffin Joe or “Zé do Caixão” was not an easy one, but such a hellish figure almost demands a fierce and fiery genesis. Marins struggled mightily to create a horror icon exclusive to Brazil, one that addressed personal and political concerns within the guise of a fright flick. Marins taps into the shadowy black and white atmospherics of the Universal monster rally heyday, but with much darker, twisted, and bloodier antics played out upon the misty stages.
Joe’s victims are terrorized with venomous spiders, fingers severed with broken bottles, eyes gouged out by his lengthy nails, with each horrid act only feeding his Nietzschean hunger. But when their ghosts return to haunt him in the final reel, it’s a breathtaking fever dream of high melodrama. Followed by a 1967 sequel, This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse, and 2008’s epic send-off, Embodiment of Evil.