I was privileged to attend the premiere of Encarnação do Demônio (The Embodiment of Evil), August 5 in São Paulo, Brazil.
This was my first movie premiere. What an amazing experience – hundreds of people, lots of TV and magazine reporters, paparazzi, cameras flashing in my face. Best of all, I got to share it with my cinematic hero, José Mojica Marins, and my friend, Dennison Ramalho.
I play “Young Coffin Joe” in a pivotal flashback sequence linking the new film with This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse (1967), the second film in the “Coffin Joe Trilogy.” The series began with At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964) and concludes now with Embodiment.
At the climax of This Night, angry villagers chase Coffin Joe into a swamp. As he sinks beneath the water, the atheistic antihero undergoes a bizarre religious conversion. He begs a priest to give him a cross, the “symbol of the Son.” Then he drowns. The end.
Mojica, the creator/director/star of the Coffin Joe franchise, originally wanted his character to go down cursing God. But government censors demanded that he change the ending. Coffin Joe had to “find God” or else the movie would not be released. Mojica grudgingly changed the ending, then spent the next 40 years regretting it.
At last, The Embodiment of Evil has rectified that injustice.
In the flashback, “Young Coffin Joe” rises from the swamp, grabs the crucifix and uses it to stab the priest to death! Now that’s more like it!
You can read about my experience on the set of The Embodiment of Evil by visiting my Web site, Diary do Demonio. We shot the scene in November 2006. Flash forward twenty months. To my surprise, I found myself in São Paulo once again, taking another journey into the strange world of Coffin Joe!
I arrived Sunday, August 3. The movie opened in theaters that Friday, but the official premiere would be an invitation-only event Tuesday at a large multiplex theater.
Dennison and his wife picked me up Tuesday night at the hotel. Per Mojica’s instructions, I was dressed in my full Coffin Joe costume – top hat, cape, nails, the works.“Tonight, I am the chauffeur for Coffin Joe,” Dennison said as I sat in his backseat.
Arriving at the multiplex, we waited outside an elevator in the parking garage. I was to join Mojica and the actresses that played his seven “brides,” all of us dressed in our movie costumes. The actresses arrived one by one, each giving me a hug.
Pedestrians stepping off the elevator witnessed a surreal scene – young Coffin Joe and his goth brides, idling around, smiling and nodding as if everything were perfectly normal.
Oh my gosh.
A roaring crowd packed the wide theater lobby, held back by velvet ropes and ushers wearing black foam top hats. It was pandemonium. “Just stay close to me and you’ll be ok,” Dennison said. The words had barely left his mouth before people in suits whisked me away!
I was channeled into a cordoned area where the actors and filmmakers were supposed to talk to the press and pose for pictures. Behind me was a giant wall mural for Encarnação do Demônio. In front of me was a bustling swarm of journalists and photographers. A man in a suit introduced himself as a 20th Century Fox representative. He said he would translate for me and tell me what I needed to do.
I spent about fifteen minutes striking Coffin Joe poses, cameras flashing all around me. A TV reporter from MTV Brasil interviewed me, followed by a magazine reporter and another TV crew. All this attention was great, but where was the REAL Coffin Joe? Where was Mojica? Finally, the Master made his grand entrance.
Mojica strode into the theater, the seven brides marching behind him. The crowd parted like the Red Sea. Cameras swung to catch the procession. Flashes exploded. Coffin Joe and his brides took their places in the front of the giant poster. Mojica hugged me.
“Legal?” Mojica asked, giving me the thumbs up.
“Legal!” I said, sticking up my thumb.
What a scene. Mojica and I, both in costume, surrounded by the brides in their goth outfits, with a hundred cameras shooting us. That lasted five or ten minutes before the producers ushered me to the side so the photographers could get shots of Mojica alone. Then Mojica did a series of TV interviews. I got out of the press area and rejoined Dennison. I could see he was feeling as overwhelmed as I was. Someone made an announcement. Dennison’s eyes grew wide. “Let’s go see the movie!” he said.
The studio had reserved seven screens. We walked into the biggest auditorium, where Mojica was going to introduce the film. The cast and crew lined up in front of the movie screen, facing the audience. Mojica stood in front of us, a microphone in his hand. He spent about ten minutes addressing the audience, his speech interrupted several times by applause. Mojica related the obstacles he encountered over the years, trying to get the film off the ground. He paid tribute to actor Jece Valadão, who died during the production. He talked about the Brazilian film industry. He singled out famed Brazilian director Anselmo Duarte, who was a special guest at the premiere. The 88-year-old Duarte stood to take a bow. The audience stood to applaud him.
Mojica concluded his speech and we took our seats. The movie started.
What a thrill it was to see the 20th Century Fox searchlights and hear that fanfare. In front of a Coffin Joe movie! A NEW Coffin Joe movie! A Coffin Joe movie with me in it! Unbelievable.
I am not going to try to “review” this film. There is no way I can be objective. But I know there are a lot of fans outside Brazil that are dying to hear what this movie is like. So I will offer some general impressions.
Embodiment is a wild, phantasmagorical funhouse ride. It has surreal, dreamlike visuals reminiscent of Awakening of the Beast, but wrapped around a strong narrative plot set in the “real” world of At Midnight and This Night. It incorporates two elements from The Strange World of Coffin Joe and Black Exorcism, namely the idea that Coffin Joe has minions to help him carry out his plans, and the inclusion of graphic torture scenes.
When I say “graphic,” I’m not kidding. This is one bloody, intense movie. I found myself squirming and flinching many times. (That’s a good thing in my book.)
Some critics may try to lump it with the already tired “torture porn” genre. But Embodiment is not torture porn. Why not? Let me tell you.
First of all, the torture is not the main attraction. Torture porn films focus on the act of inflicting pain. They are sideshow experiences, concerned with little else beyond the torture itself.
But Embodiment has bigger fish to fry. The main attraction is the character of Coffin Joe himself. The focus is his quest to find the “superior woman” to continue his bloodline. How many torture films deal with themes like mankind’s quest for immortality, the meaning of existence and destiny, the conflict between atheism and religion. Coffin Joe has always been about big themes, and this film is no exception.
And what a character Coffin Joe is. Truly the “embodiment of evil,” and yet somehow noble and sympathetic. As in previous films, he protects children from harm. He puts on a ferocious front, but inside he is plagued by self-doubt while struggling against demons from his past.
Let us not forget Coffin Joe’s women. The character has always been a magnet for beautiful women, but this film takes it to a new plateau. The movie is packed from beginning to end with stunningly gorgeous, naked women. I’m not talking about a flash of nudity here and there. This film is wall-to-wall naked women. Coffin Joe wouldn’t have it any other way.
Everything a fan wants in a Coffin Joe movie is here, intact, undiluted. But it is updated with modern production values, fast pacing and beautiful cinematography.
On a personal level, the most thrilling element was obviously seeing myself on the big screen. It was unnerving. Man, I’m scary! Once the mayhem started in the swamp, I forgot it was me and just enjoyed it as a great Coffin Joe scene. I was kind of relieved when it was over, because then I could “relax” and watch the rest of the film without being self-conscious.
When the credits rolled, the audience applauded. But I felt kind of sad. Was this the end of Coffin Joe’s cinematic journey? I wanted more!
A cocktail reception followed the screening. I received a lot of compliments, including one from Mojica. People were asking me to pose for pictures with them. It was a good time. Then we left the theater to go to a cast/crew party at a nightclub.
What a night!
The producers are going to the Venice Film Festival, where Embodiment will be screened August 29. There, they will make distribution deals for Europe, North America and Asia. They definitely want a North American theatrical release.
I don’t think it’s my place to discuss the film’s box office performance. But I do want to make sure Coffin Joe fans around the world understand something. If they care about this kind of filmmaking, it is very important that they support Embodiment by going to the theater and buying a ticket.
Hopefully, the film will come to your country and your city sometime during the next year. When it does, you need to see it at the theater. Don’t say you’ll just wait for the DVD. See it at the theater. This is not The Dark Knight or Harry Potter. This is a cult film that depends heavily on fan support. The people who control the purse strings are watching what happens in the theaters. If you want to see more films like this, you’ve got to get out there and support it.
I was still in Brazil when the film opened Friday. That night, I received some MySpace messages from strangers who had just seen it. One of them paid me a compliment that hit home. “You’re the real deal,” the fan said.
That meant a lot to me. As a horror fan, I’m always searching for the “real deal.” We all are, and we so seldom find it. This genre can be so full of B.S. But Mojica is the real deal, and so is this film. To have someone call me the “real deal” is a greater honor than the Golden Palm, two thumbs up and a free bag of popcorn.
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