At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)
At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma in its native Portugese language) is a 1964 Brazilian horror film directed by José Mojica Marins and the first of the Coffin Joe trilogy.
The film is set in an unnamed Brazilian small town. Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe), the local undertaker who disdains religion and emotion and who believes the only thing that matters is the "continuity of the blood" (specifically his own), is looking for the "perfect woman" to bear him a superior child who will be immortal. Since his wife Lenita has been found to be unable to bear children, Coffin Joe begins to make advances with Terezinha, the fiancée of Joe's friend Antônio. Terezinha scolds him by telling him that Antônio is the only man in her life. During a Catholic holiday, Joe kills his wife Lenita (because of her infertility) by tying her up and having a venomous spider bite her. The local authorities cannot find a clue to arrest him and he remains free to do whatever he wants.
Some days later, Coffin Joe is invited by Antônio to visit a local gypsy who will tell the fortune of Antônio's marriage with Terezinha. The gypsy reveals, however, that there is going to be a tragic disaster, and the two will never get married. Joe, in response, calls her a fraud and states that the supernatural is a hoax. She warns him not to mock the supernatural forces, lest they make him pay. That night, Joe and Antônio go to Antônio's house, where Antônio tells Joe that he really didn't believe the witch's words, and that he expects to marry Terezinha and have a happy life together. Fulfilling the witch's prophecy, Coffin Joe brutally bludgeons and then drowns Antônio in a bathtub.
Once again, the police can find no evidence to directly implicate Joe with the crime. He proceeds with his plan to seduce Terezinha by purchasing a canary for her, which she accepts. Suddenly he starts to touch her against her will. Terezinha tries to resist, and Coffin Joe savagely beats her into a helpless state and rapes her. Finally able to speak, Terezinha curses him for his brutality, saying she will kill herself, then return to take his soul to hell. Joe laughs at her, but the next day she is found hanging in her home. To his surprise, she doesn't blame him in her suicide note. Meanwhile, the village's Dr. Rudolfo begins to suspect Joe for the recent outbreak of violent deaths that has occurred. When Joe becomes aware of the doctor's suspicions, Coffin Joe appears at Dr. Rudolfo's home, gouges his eyes with his long fingernails and sets him on fire.
Time passes, and Coffin Joe remains unpunished for his crimes. On the Day of the Dead he meets Marta, a young woman who is visiting her relatives, and decides to choose her as his next perfect woman. Joe escorts Marta home late at night, only to be confronted by the gypsy who predicted the doom of Antônio and Terezinha. She tells Joe that his soul shall be claimed by the ghosts of those he murdered and by Satan at midnight. Joe threatens the gypsy, but after leaving Marta at her destination, he is soon visited by ghostly apparitions that test his courage. Realizing he cannot face the apparitions, Joe runs away, and coincidentally arrives at the mausoleum where Antônio and Terezinha were buried. Finally at the edge of his sanity, Joe opens the coffins to prove to himself his victims are really dead, but instead sees that their eyes are open, as if they are still alive, faces crawling with maggots. Some time later, the villagers come to the mausoleum after hearing Coffin Joe's blood-curdling screams and find him lying on his back, horribly disfigured, his eyes bulging open similar to the eyes of the two corpses. At that same time, the bells of the local church ring, announcing the stroke of midnight.
Why It Rocks
- Brazil's first horror film.
- The tone of the movie is very dark and violent. Even though Night of the Living Dead is considered the film that created the splatter film genre, this movie predates NotLD by 4 years.
- Coffin Joe is a serious villain but also very human, as his ultimate goal is to be a father.
- The character of Coffin Joe (never called that in the film but still associates with his character) disdains religion and superstition and mocks it often. In an act of irony, these often become his downfall.
- Very violent and gruesome deaths.
- Although Coffin Joe is actually a trilogy, his character appears in several other Brazilian movies, showing his status as a horror icon.
During the time this movie was released, censorship almost didn't exist in Brazil, meaning that every state decided on its own if a movie was to be banned or not. The result of this was that it was banned in several states because of its violent scenes and others that were deemed as blaspheme but was shown in several other states with great success, especially in the state of São Paulo, where it is said that a movie theater played it for four months.
James Rolfe, famous for his Angry Video Game Nerd persona, regards the trilogy as very underrated movies. He even says the Coffin Joe is such a cruel villain he makes modern horror villains like Freddy Krueger look like sissies. It currently has a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 6 reviews with an average rating of 6.2/10, and a 7.0/10 on IMDb.
- At Midnight I´ll Take Your Soul (1964)
The movie is available for free at the internet archive or you can watch it here.