At Midnight I”ll Take Your Soul (1964) – By Brian Morton

It’s always fun to glimpse inside another culture. To see their fears and what would make them scared, so, if for no other reason, it’s fun to check out the cult movie “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul.” This is a Brazilian movie made in the 60’s and it’s as bad as some of the horror movies made here around that same time. The movie revolves around a small town and it’s weird local mortician. Now, ordinarily when we’re talking about a weird mortician I’m there with you, but this guy really isn’t that scary. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s running roughshod over the whole town and he’s the smallest person in it! Or that he regularly backs down a whole bar full of men, even though they outnumber him by six to one and they’re all bigger than he is! Or maybe it’s just the fact that anyone in a dickey, a cape and a top hat really isn’t that scary to start with. And we’re led to believe that they’re all afraid of him because he’s evil and they’re all God-fearing men?

Anyway, our hero, who’s nom-de-plum happens to be Coffin Joe (an apt name for the town mortician), who doesn’t believe in anything except himself. In the first few minutes of the movie we see him eating meat on ‘Holy Friday,’ even though his wife and others tell him that he can’t! The Horror, The Horror! All right, so if that’s not enough, our buddy Coffin Joe is obsessed with his bloodline. That’s right, he must have a son to continue his bloodline, but sadly his wife is unable to have children, which, to Joe, makes her absolutely worthless and expendable. Fortunately, Joe’s buddy Antonio has an attractive woman who seems to be perfectly able to have kids. So, Joe sets his plan into motion. First he kills his wife by drugging her and then putting a spider on her! After the doctor says she’s dead from a spider bite, Joe begins planning the funeral which seems to be a very cost effective way of running a funeral home. You can increase your revenue any time you’d like by simply “adding clientele.” Think about it: you never have a “down season,” and can get as much business as you want whenever you want!

Anyway, with his wife dead, Joe sets his sights on his friend, Antonio, who is also the only person in town who will talk to Joe. But Antonio stands between Joe and Theresa, Antonio’s fiancé. So, Joe drowns his friend in his own bathtub and buries him, then begins “courting” Theresa. Well, as you might imagine, it’s kind of hard to like Joe and all, let alone find him attractive enough to have children with! So, Joe rapes her, in order to sire an heir!

Well, Theresa tells Joe that she’ll kill herself before she has any children for him, but before she does, she curses him! She and Antonio will return from the dead to carry Joe’s soul off to hell before they’ll rest in peace. Joe laughs and mocks her faith! Well, one thing leads to another and Joe is out walking after dark on the Day of the Dead, not a smart thing when one has been cursed by the recently deceased! In the end, Joe is accosted by the Procession of the Dead and driven to the tomb of Antonio and Theresa, where they, manage to kill Joe. The townspeople arrive after they hear screams, only to find Joe dead in a crypt! The End.

This is a very interesting movie, in that Joe is apparently something of a horror legend in South America. He’s the Freddy Krueger of his day, even inspiring five sequels, and it all started “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul.” It’s also interesting that the “monster” of the piece isn’t really anything other than a deranged mortician who mocks God and anyone who has faith! The only thing that makes him different from the other townspeople, besides his top hat and cape, is that the fingernails on his right hand are very long! I’m not sure why his fingernails are overly long, but I’m assuming that it has something to do with his not having faith in fingernail clippers or maybe the fact that the Devil reviles a nail file! This is worth checking out, mostly because Coffin Joe has a huge following in other parts of the world and the story is an interesting look into the culture of Brazil in the 60’s. The special effects are about what you’d expect from any 60’s movie and the story is very different than anything that would’ve been made in this country in the same time period. My recommendation is, check out Coffin Joe in “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul,” but only if you don’t mind a horror movie that has subtitles and focuses more on faith and God than on actual horror!