THE BLOODY EXORCISM OF COFFIN JOE (1974)
(aka. EXORCISMO NEGRO/BLACK EXORCISM/0 TIRADOR DE DEMONIOS (Shooting Title Only))
Directed by Jose Mojica Marins. 77 mins. approx.
EXORCISMO NEGRO was the first Brazilian horror movie to be shot entirely in colour, though you wouldn't know it from this washed out pink-tinged 'Something Weird Video' release; the running time of 77 minutes is also somewhat short of the 94 minutes quoted in MONSTER INTERNATIONAL # 3 (probably the last word on Jose Mojica Marins and his odd and unique Ze do Caixao films), even taking into account the truly shoddy, jumpy, scratch-darnaged source print, which at times is marred by more lines than Clapham Junction... It is also one of the weaker 'Coffin Joe' films, this being in part due to the fact that Marins was only partly responsible for the muddled, over-hysterical plot, and was working to the tune of someone else's money, that of Producer Anibal Massaini Neto who had a keen eye on the tumultuous success of THE EXORCIST. EXORCISMO NEGRO was released just a month and a half after THE EXORCIST opened in Sao Paulo, so it was indeed well timed, but a rush job. And it shows, despite the fact that Marins had access to his most professional film-crew to date, some well-known domestic TV and stage stars, and a powerful advertising campaign. However, EXORCISMO NEGRO is compromised by the need to play to a more mainstream audience so, despite a few scenes of graphic torture and violence, and the expected possession shenanigans, it is a weaker brew than the earlier Ze do Caixao outings. Still, EXORCISMO NEGRO has a certain rough-hewn charm, once you get over the culture shock of the Brazilian approach to Horror, all mugging faces, writhing eye-brows that wouldmake H.G. Lewis's Fuad Ramses spit with jealousy, and fiendish cackles, marinated with gloopy gore and enough prosthetic limbs, tongues and assorted body parts to cause any undiscriminating gore hound to masturbate himself into a frenzy and an early grave! The word 'subtlety' doesn't seem to exist in any of Marins' film-making Lexicons...
The plot is muddled and contradictory (especily when set alongside the already well-established 'Coffin Joe' mythos), and concerns Jose Mojica Marins as himself reaching a watershed in his life with regard to his creation, Ze do Caixao, whom he feels is taking the limelight away from him. Setting off up-river to visit family friends in an effort to more clearly focus his ideas for his next film, instead of peace of mind Marins encounters a creative block and an onslaught of bizarre supernatural events -some Christmas holiday it turnsout to be! If it isn't bad enough that his friend Alvaro and his family are being possessed one by one (quite tamely as it happens, no "Let Jesus fuck you" dialogue or crucifix-impaled pre-pubescent vaginas here!), little Betinha, the youngest of Alvaro's three daughters (playedby Marins' real-life daughter Merisol in a scary range of skimpy outfits that put the mini-skirt to shame!) is seeing snakes and spiders decorating the Christmas tree instead of the customary baubles, and later finds her little dog dead, apparently strangled by her sister Luciana (the child looks genuinely distressed as she cradles a real (?) carcass in her arms)...
In the midst of this, er, 'terrifying' action (Alvaro's elderly father Julio ripping up his favourite flowerbed, Betinha making a devil-trident shape on the lawn with daisies!) an attempt is made to explain things. Folks, it confused me more, but I gather it's something to do with one of the family's three daughters (no, NOT Betinha, though her piping voice can be hellishly grating attimes) being the result of a pact between the local witch (a followerof the Brazilian Voodoo variant Macumba), Alvaro's then-barren wife Lucia and 'Coffin Joe', who is found to really exist. This witch wants the result of this pact, Lucia's eldest daughter Vilma, to marry her son by the Devil... Confused? Try watching the film! Naturally Lucia is none too keen on this plan, preferring that Vilma should marry trusty Carlos, her long-time suitor, and so the Macumba mama is cutting up rough, well, a mite pissed off in any case. She even bites the throat out of a live chicken, so you know things can only get worse before they get better!
Things muddle along until Marins receives a knock on the noggin, whereupon he finds himself in Hell (!), where 'Coffin Joe' and the witch are gathered in God's name to witness the solemn... er, sorry, they're gathered in SATAN'S name to witness... well, yes, it's a wedding, but not the kind you'd probably want to attend! Alvaro and most of his family are present at these nasty nuptials, dressed in the height of satanic chic, and a bored looking group of tangle-haired women (a kind of demonic 'Pan's People' if you please..!) bump and grind listlessly, as the damned (unfortunate extras) are led in to be tortured in the traditional Ze do Caixao manner; let's just say it's none too pleasant for them and leave it at that! Marins confronts his creation but decides that discretion is the better part of valour and slinks away, only to be brought up short by an all too familiar teeth-grinding screeching... little Betinha is being carried in, kicking and screaming, to be slaughtered at the hands of her possessed family, as Ze do Caixao and the Macumba woman approvingly look on! Well, call him sentimental, call him anything you like just as long as you stay outside swiping distance of his famed longfingernails (go weep a bucket, Freddy!), but Marins has to re-enter the fray to rescue the wailing, gap-toothed infant. Discovering a new belief in God, Marins waves around a makeshift cross as music pillaged from one of Hammer's lesser outings, SCARS OF DRACULA, turns the whole shoddy scene into a cheap parody of Dracula versus Van Helsing, Betinha cowering behind him as Ze do Caixao and his minions melodramatically face him off..
Good conquers evil, rather abruptly, as Marins finds himself back in his room, where he stabs a shape moving behind his curtains, which bleed copiously, as does the witch in her swamp-side home, collapsing amongst the plastic skulls and joke-shop bric-a-brac which pass for her occult tools... Her ugly son rushes into the room, whereupon a tatty toy trident sails through the air and, clutching it to his chest in an attempt to appear impaled, he too dies in the best amateur dramatics fashion! Meanwhile, Marins cautiously enters the living room to check if all is returned to normality. Abruptly he is greeted by a terrifying sight - bratty Betinha is scrapping with one of her sisters, tugging at a Christmas present and whinging insistently, as is her wont... Yep, things are back to normal! A relieved Marins packs his trunk and says good-bye to the circus that is his friends' midnight Christmas celebrations. But as he leaves the house, slipping away surreptitiously into the night, he fails to see Betinha standing and glaring at his departing back. She casts a shadow, not of her own dumpy figure, but that of a black-cloaked, top-hatted Ze do Caixao, and the camera zooms into a close-up of her eye, to reveal a triumphantly laughing Ze... Yes, at midnight he has possessed her soul!
Wild, weird, and definitely not your usual kind of horror flick, EXORCISMO NEGRO probably isn't the best introduction to the world of 'Coffin Joe' (luckily it wasn't mine, otherwise I might have wondered seriously why I had always wanted to see Marins' movies ever since the first time I read about them, way back in the late 70's!), but I can think of worse things to do than watch it - if I try hard!
Source Print: Something Weird Video (USA).