(“At Midnight I’ll Rip Out Your Soul”)
Production: Brazil, 1963-64
Director: José Mojica Marins
Not only the first proper horror film ever made in Brazil, but also the most original black-and-white essay in supernatural horror and gothic terror since Mario Bava’s Maschero Del Demonio, A Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma is the first dark masterpiece by José Mojica Marins. Marins himself plays the role of village undertaker Zé do Caixão (“Coffin Zé”), a bearded graveyard dandy in black top hat and cape. Zé, who has bizarre philosophies to match his appearance, cruelly holds sway over the superstitious locals, whom he holds in absolute contempt; in several scenes, he espouses a nihilistic credo which is part anti-religion, part Nietzschean intellectual supremacy. But above all, Zé – who is searching for a woman to bear him a son in order to continue his superior bloodline – is a sadist capable of stupendous acts of violence (signalled by his eyes – filmed in close-up – becoming bloodshot). These include severing a man’s fingers with a broken bottle, horse-whipping a man in a bar-fight, beating a woman to bloody pulp before raping her, and destroying a doctor’s eyes with his long fingernails before setting the wretch on fire. He also murders his wife – who is barren and therefore of no use to him – by tarantula bite, and brutally smashes another man’s skull with a poker before drowning him. Zé’s atheism is finally tested after his rape victim curses him – “at midnight I’ll rip out your soul!” – before hanging herself, and the local witch hounds him with prophesies of infernal damnation. In a drunken rage, the undertaker smashes up his own candlelit cemetery whilst screaming curses at the dead; later, during a violent thunderstorm, he is tormented by the voices of his victims and accusers, and shouts a challenge to Satan himself to appear and prove his existence. This leads to the film’s climactic sequence, a tour-de-force in which Zé, walking alone through the forest during the Night of the Dead, becomes more and more agitated and apprehensive; finally he sees the bloody ghost of the man he drowned, followed by the procession of the dead (shot in negative), who are carrying his own body in a burial casket. Returning to the morgue, Zé is driven to break open the coffins of his victims – the scene closes with his soul-rending scream as he beholds the rotting corpses, crawling with maggots and spiders. When the villagers find him, he is sprawled upside-down, his face contorted and disfigured, eyes bulging hideously and sightlessly; the clock strikes midnight.
Running for around 80 minutes, A Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma is an oneiric framing of sadism, sexual mania, psychosis, blasphemy and metaphysical rage, visually adorned with all the accoutrements of voodoo, black magic and the grave. Its disturbing ambience is enhanced by a cacophonous soundtrack of screams, evil laughter, electronic noise, storms, discordant music, and massive reverb on the actors’ voices. It was a huge – and unexpected – hit in Brazil, leading Marins to return with an even more remarkable sequel, Esta Noite Encarnarei No Teu Cadáver (“Tonight I’ll Infest Your Corpse”), a spectro-sexual sado-trip into the very bowels of Hell.
Posted by Moonchild Zero