After four decades on the inside for multiple murders, Coffin Joe (Jose Mojica Marins) is released from his prison cell by a group of men who still regard upon him as being the Devil. He's bemused that it takes several men to unlock his cell, so scared are they of this old man before them.

As he walks down the prison corridor, one man shouts behind Joe, telling him to renounce his evil ways. A glint in his eye and his monologue over the opening titles suggest he has other plans ...

Met by his faithful hunchbacked servant Bruno (Rui Resende) at the prison gates, Coffin Joe takes a good look at the modern world - the hustle and bustle of city life, fast cars, kids sniffing glue on street corners - as they walk through Brazil's streets and to his secret lair.

At his hideout, Bruno introduces Coffin Joe to four new disciples - two male, two female. They pledge their allegiance to Joe and he in turn wastes little time in announcing his intention of picking up where he left off 40 years earlier: searching for a woman to bear him a son, in the belief that carrying on his bloodline will give him immortality.

But there are obstacles in Joe's way. The cops, for a start, are after him. Led by Miro (Jece Valadao) whose eye was stabbed out by Joe's talon-like fingernail many moons ago, they've become aware of his dastardly deeds now that he's on the outside.

Also, mental priest Father Eugenio (Milhem Cortaz) is desperate to avenge his father's death at the hands of a young Joe. During one highly amusing rant, he meets up with Miro and suggests they work together in bringing our evil anti-hero to his demise.

Last but not least, there are the victims of Joe's God-forbidding past, who appear to him as monochrome ghosts. These haunting scenes are especially effective, and also allow for some most welcome flashback sequences to the first two instalments in this trilogy, AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964) and THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (1967).

From here onwards, EMBODIMENT OF EVIL dispenses with logic in favour of a succession of increasingly violent and surreal set-pieces. Coming on like an ultra-stylish hybrid of Jodorowsky and Fulci, the latter half of the film is a fusion of garish colour schemes and sadistic gore - all tempered by a deliciously dark sense of humour.

For fans of Joe's earlier outings, it's satisfying to report that all of the old ingredients are present and correct: atmospheric smoky exterior scenes; jarring moments of extreme graphic violence; heavy-handed speeches from Joe questioning man's existence and the relevance (if there is any) of God; an abundance of quirky, memorable supporting characters.

Of course, the film belongs to director Marins. Incredibly, the guy was 72 years old when this film was completed ... sure, he's bloated somewhat since the earlier films, but he's still incredibly intense on screen - and remains a ball of energetic charisma, impossible not to warm to.

Which is remarkable, as his Coffin Joe has never been so mean. In one scene, he pours boiling melted cheese onto a victim's vagina and then forces a hungry rat inside it; in another, he delights in hanging a Holy man in suspension by fish hooks.

But there is a conscience in the film that in an odd way echoes A CAT IN THE BRAIN. Joe is plagued by the memories of his former evil deeds (a woman he raped in CORPSE returns as a ghost to torment him, for example). But while these scenes offer a potentially interesting facet to Joe's character, they don't truly amount to much - other than some dazzling Gothic ambience. I was wondering whether they would force Joe to challenge his own evil deeds ... but no, he carries on with his wanton debauchery regardless. Bless him.

Even a vision of Hell on Earth (like an extreme gore version of the Hell sequence from THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS) fails to help Joe see the error of his ways, despite him seeming suitably shaken at the time.

Low on logic, high in energy and positively brimming with fantastic surreal style, EMBODIMENT OF EVIL is a delight the likes of which I didn't think they made any more.

Special mentions must go to production designer/art director Cassio Amarante and cinematographer Jose Roberto Eliezer, for helping to turn this hugely enjoyable schlock into a frequently beautiful realisation of Marins' demented ideas.

But at the end of the day, as gorgeous as the film is and as amusingly OTT as Marins' monologues are, the film will most likely be best remembered for it's staggering gore (hats off to FX artist Kapel Furman) and lots of very agreeable female nudity. Anchor Bay's disc presents EMBODIMENT OF EVIL fully uncut in a very attractive 1.85:1 transfer, anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. Images are sharp and colours remain accurate throughout. Contrast is strong and blacks hold up remarkably well. The Gothic smoke-filled scenes that highlight the film play back in solid unwavering fashion. Grain is minimal, while the transfer never suffers from the likes of ghosting or artefacting.

Audio is provided in Portuguese 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both tracks provide a reliable, evenly balanced and rousing playback.

Optional subtitles are given in English. Pleasingly these are easy to read and free from any obvious typing errors.

The animated main menu is visually alluring and leads into a colourful static scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

Extras begin with a decent 32-minute Making Of documentary. Presented in Portuguese with optional English subtitles, this is a professional-looking piece with plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes footage alongside cast and crewmembers addressing the screen to speak enthusiastically about working with Marins.

The on-set footage is at times a tad dark and the camera doesn't always get in close enough to the action for us to fully appreciate Marins' working style. Also, it's a shame that the big man himself doesn't get to chat talking head-style to the camera like everyone else does. But, even so, this is a worthy addition to the disc.

The only other extra on the disc is a 2-minute theatrical trailer. This, like the film itself, generates a strange buzz in me just for seeing the 20th Century Fox logo at the beginning. It feels so wrong ...! The trailer is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1, in Portugese with optional English subtitles.

EMBODIMENT OF EVIL is a fantastic slice of gory, stylish trash. Full marks to Marins - I never dared to hope his return to the genre would be this good.

It's a great footnote to his career, and a fine accompaniment to Anchor Bay's forthcoming must-have COFFIN JOE COLLECTION.

EMBODIMENT OF EVIL is also available on Blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Anchor Bay Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review