I consider myself a pretty big horror fan, so I was pretty surprised when I realised I’ve never seen a single one of the films from the Coffin Joe trilogy. This meant that I was pretty excited when I heard Synapse Films was releasing the three films on DVD, with the first two films sold separately and the third being part of a DVD three film pack. I, of course, started with the first film in the series At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, and I have to say, I got a kick out of the Coffin Joe character. The film itself is easy enough to follow and enjoy, plus it has some pretty effective scenes to send a chill or two up your back. If you are like me and haven’t seen the films before, read on to see if you would like to pick up the DVD or not.
RUN-TIME: 82 min
ASPECT RATIO: 1.33:1
AUDIO: Dolby Digital Mono
PRODUCTION DATE: 1964
RELEASE DATE: Jan 31, 2017
Coffin Joe (known as Ze do Caixao, and portrayed by director Jose Mojica Marins) is a mysterious undertaker in a small Brazilian town. He frowns upon religion and is bitter because his wife cannot bear him a child. After violently killing his wife with a venomous spider, the murder, mutilation and blasphemy escalates as Joe stops at nothing to find a new woman to continue his evil bloodline. The town’s gypsy has a warning for Coffin Joe… the spirits of those he killed may return to claim his soul! Will Coffin Joe escape the wrath of the dead and finally get the child he’s always wanted, or will unholy terror claim him for his hideous crimes?
At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul centres around the Coffin Joe character and his quest to find the perfect woman to bear him a son. The girl he is currently with is not able to, but his brother’s fiancee seems like the one that could. The only thing that stands in his way is how to get rid of his current wife and brother, plus convince the other woman to fall in love with him.
Coffin Joe obviously doesn’t have much experience in the field of wooing women, as he believes killing people is the correct way to win a lady’s heart and if that doesn’t work, buy her a bird. Of course, with him being a creepy undertaker, who loves to pick fights with locals and leave a room with a quick quip and a hearty laugh, of which I now want to start doing, his chances of success are pretty small. They are so low in fact that his failure results in a curse being put on him that says the souls of the people he wronged are going to come back at midnight to take his soul. Coffin Joe doesn’t believe such nonsense at first, but it doesn’t take long for his sanity to start cracking.
The biggest highlight of watching At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is seeing the downward spiral of Coffin Joe’s insanity. José Mojica Marins plays the character with just zestful dickheadedness; you can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance. The film takes its time to build the Joe character into a seething angry man, who has the power to hulk out when necessary (oddly enough, the hulking out is never explained, but we’ll assume magic). The poor folk that have to put up with Coffin Joe coming to ruin their day is easily noticeable as the cast do a great job at loathing him.
The film plays it safe with a nice 82-minute runtime, so the flick never overstays its welcome, which is a blessing as the story is straightforward and doesn’t rely on twists and turns. People who want explosions, gore and violence, need not apply. What At Midnight does right is dole out a story that crafts a wretched character you love to hate and plenty of chilling scenes (the concession of dead spirits was very spooky).
Synapse Films does an admirable job with the DVD transfer of At Midnight. The film is rather old and it looks like the footage used was beat up, as there are some transition issues and dirt and debris present. The movie most likely would not have benefited by being upgraded to HD, so the cheaper DVD option was the smart way to go.
Just because the film is on DVD and not Blu-ray doesn’t mean Synapse Films slacked on the special features. We have some interviews with Coffin Joe himself, José Mojica Marins. He reminisces about the film and other works of his. It’s rather informative, but not overly long. You also get a remade scene from At Midnight that plays out like the beginning of what I can only describe as a terrible porn flick. None of the features are long, but all of them are enjoyable enough to sit through.
- 35mm negative scan supervised by director Jose Mojica Marins
- The Making of AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (10 minutes)
- Jose Mojica Marins discusses his short film, REINO SANGRENTO (1952) (9 minutes)
- Interview with Jose Mojica Marins (6 minutes)
- New scene filmed in 2002
- Introduction to the film by Coffin Joe
- Original theatrical trailer and rare promotional trailer
If At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is any indication of what the other two Coffin Joe films are like, I can’t wait to dive into them. I look forward to seeing the Coffin Joe character get what he deserves in the other two films and thanks to Synapse Films we can all do just that.