"At Midnight, I'll Take Your Soul" is one of the most original and clever films around.
Tired of being a gravedigger in his town, Ze do Caixao, (Jose Mojica Marins) spends his free time with Terezinha, (Magda Mei) the fiancée of Antonio, (Nivaldo Lima) his best friend. Complaining about his wife Lenita, (Valeria Vasquez) and her inability to bear a child, he sets out to find a woman in the village to give one to him, but they all fail. Terezinha also wishes him to leave her alone, and he is so enraged he cuts a path of destruction through the village over anyone that stands up or opposes him. When they determine that he has done enough, the spirits of the damned arise from their graves and seek their vengeance against him.
The News: This was a really impressive surprise and an entertaining film. The one thing that stands out the most in here is the overt and downright confrontational religious themes present. The ranting in the doctor's home, where after delivering a series of jabs at the church, the utter denouncement of all things religious is made, and it still packs a wallop. The utter contempt for the fears and superstitions of the town, from laughing at the priest while eating a piece of lamb meat on Good Friday, to committing several acts strongly adhered against religious doctrine, to the berating and beating down the others who think differently, all reinforce that assumption, and are made to believe that the fear is based on superstitious nonsense. Even the contempt of using a headband from a religious statue as a tool for beating in a fight becomes symbolic of the fact that religion is beating down those who view it as being peaceful and forgiving when it's forceful and oppressive is the final nail in the coffin for the metaphor. There's other aspects of the film, such as the memorable images created in here. The first time the titular character is on-screen, with the flowing cape, uni-brow, top hat and uncharacteristically long fingernails, all create a unique certainly menacing villain. His grand variations and wild movement make him all the more eccentric, and it's useful in making him different from the other crazed types out there. The one area where it's hard to top the film is the atmosphere. This is a really impressively designed film, where the film has a really creepy feel. The strange feeling whenever we're in town is exemplified by the strange behavior of the residents and until we get an explanation about who he is, the scenes with them frightened at the sight of him make for some really tense moments. The one scene that is unquestionably a masterpiece concerns the ending, which is so masterful that it really just stands out in the film. The cemetery where the action takes place is one of the most visually arresting cemeteries around, with giant bushes and trees around, creepy candles littering the ground and an air of morbid and unease around it. From the moment he walks in, with the wind howling over the trees and the voice-over explaining his demise and the ways it will come about, are nothing short of jittering and supremely suspenseful. As the other warnings start to come true in spectacular fashion, the dawning of it becomes apparent and the visions increase even more readily. The ethereal voices with the chanting in the background and the increasingly more out-of-control situations that transpire make the whole sequence a real highlight that has a hard time being topped. The brutality of the violence is also quite pleasant, and there is some nice deaths in here. From the slow, tortuous scene where a victim is slowly subjected to a spider slowly crawling over their leg and biting on the neck, to the repeatedly bashing over the head with blunt objects or a spiked headband, this one does have some very brutal, and intriguing kills in it. This is one pleasant surprise for a film.
The Final Verdict: One of the most impressive horror films around, and a debut film just as good as anything out there, this was an extremely pleasant and rewarding surprise. Highly recommended to the most open of minds, as the themes present may not be for everyone, but is certainly worthy of a watch at any rate.
Rated UR/R: Graphic Violence and a mild Rape
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