Thursday, September 1, 2016


Dir. José Mojica Marins
80 mins.

This was my first introduction to the universe of Zé do Caixão, known to the English world as Coffin Joe, and it was a glorious introduction indeed. Gory, depraved, arty and exploitative, director and star José Mojica Marins not only pioneered Brazilian horror with his Coffin Joe series, but carried with it a post-modern philosophy and critique of society's morality and class.

This particular entry is an anthology of three tales demonstrating the triumph of instinct over reason, a thesis that Joe himself asserts in a narration over the opening credits. The first story is called O Fabricante de Bonecas, or The Dollmaker. The titular artisan works at home with his five daughters, all of whom look like they're in their thirties, wear vestial white gowns, each having their own creepy, oversized and eyeless doll.

A group of men conspire to rob the dollmaker in his home, believing him to be the owner of a substantial treasure. After beating him and brandishing a knife, the old man blacks out after suffering what appears to be a heart attack. One of the men discovers the dollmaker's daughters and the group turn their attention away from treasure and towards rape. The women have their own deadly secret, although, to which the men soon discover.

In "Kara" ("Obsession"), the second vignette, we are introduced to a homeless addict who holds balloons in the street and spies on a specific woman through her window, as she disrobes and bathes in her apartment. The creepy hobo becomes fixated on the woman and follows her around town as she obliviously lives her life, shopping, dating and even eventually becoming married. You might think you know where this story is going, but you don't. The twist midway is truly unexpected and allows for the real horror of the piece to unfold in its climax.  

The third entry, "Ideologie", constitutes the real meat of this film. Professor Oaxiac Odez (Zé do Caixão reversed, and a probable alter-ego of the character) is being interviewed on a TV show about his theory that love does not actually exist, and that instead we are creatures of instinct and convenience. One of the journalists strongly disagrees with the professor, and after the interview concludes,  Odez invites the the dissenting journalist and his wife to his home for a demonstration of his philosophy. When they arrive, Odez (in scenes foreshadowing Blood Sucking Freaks) conducts a prurient show of sadism, cannibalism, and debauchery to prove to the couple that survival trumps any and all notions of human love.

The anthology is well written, directed and acted. The jerky editing adds to the thick atmosphere of the film, and is reminiscent of early surrealist editing, like that found in Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet, or Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou. José Mojica Marins is a ferociously original filmmaker, and is criminally obscure. His name should be spoken in the same sentences that invoke Jodorowsky, Lynch, and Russell. Having now seen many more films in his oeuvre, I can attest Marins has perfectly grafted horror, arthouse and exploitation into a potent concoction and in doing so, created an aggressively unique body of work that challenges the viewer, deconstructs social mores and entertains like no other. Highly recommended!



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