At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (Portuguese: À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma) is a 1964 Brazilian horror film directed by José Mojica Marins.
It marks the first appearance of Marins’ character Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe) and the first entry in the “Coffin Joe trilogy”. It followed by This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (1967), and, belatedly, Embodiment of Evil (2008).
An unnamed Brazilian small town: Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe) is the local undertaker who disdains religion and emotion and believes the only thing that matters is the “continuity of the blood”. He is therefore seeks 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 Antonio. Terezinha scolds him by telling him that Antonio is the only man in her life. During a Catholic holiday, Joe kills his wife Lenita by tying her up and allowing a venomous spider bite her.
Days later, Coffin Joe is invited by Antonio to visit a local gypsy, who fortells that Antonio’s marriage with Terezinha is going to be a tragic disaster. Joe, in response, calls her a fraud and states that the supernatural is a hoax. However, fulfilling the witch’s prophecy, Joe brutally bludgeons and then drowns Antonio in a bathtub.
The police can find no evidence to implicate Joe with the crime. Terezinha tries to resist his advances, but 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 Doctor 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 Doctor 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 Antonio and Terezinha. She informs Joe that his soul shall be claimed by the ghosts of those he murdered and Satan at midnight. Joe threatens the gypsy, but he is soon visited by ghostly apparitions that test his courage. Joe runs away, and coincidentally arrives at the mausoleum where Antonio 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 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.
“The film was very violent, but what shocked Brazilian audiences was Zé’s blasphemy … Visually, the film seems taken directly from comic books. The black and white photography is highly contrasted, and the lighting totally Expressionistic, with rays of light cutting through the pitch black scenery. Despite his financial problems, Marins was able to put together a very talented crew, which included a number of professionals who worked at big studios in Brazil.” André Barcinski, Fear Without Frontiers: Horror Cinema Across the Globe
“The film is really a work of art; the ghosts who attack Joe near the end of the film have to be seen to be believed. The effect was achieved by Marins actually gluing glitter down on the actual print of the movie. The gore effects are also very top notch for a film that was made during the 1960’s. Marins definitely had a vision that was well before its time…” Killion, HorrorNews.net
“Not only is it the beginning of the story, it is also among the most conventionally constructed, and thus most accessible, entries in the series. Visually, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soulbears a close resemblance to Hollywood horror films of the early 30’s, the Universal gothics especially. (What’s below that surface, however, is something else altogether.)” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
Coffin Joe: “I’ll eat meat today, even if it’s human flesh!”
On January 31, 2017, the film was released on DVD by Synapse Films with the following special features:
- 35mm negative scan supervised by director José Mojica Marins
- The Making of At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (10 minutes)
- José Mojica Marins discusses his short film, Reino Sangrento (1952) (9 minutes)
- Interview with José Mojica Marins (6 minutes)
- New scene filmed in 2002
- Introduction to the film by Coffin Joe
- Original theatrical trailer and rare promotional trailer
Cast and characters:
- José Mojica Marins as Zé do Caixão
- Magda Mei as Terezinha
- Nivaldo Lima as Antônio
- Valéria Vasquez as Lenita
- Ilídio Martins Simões as DoctorRodolfo
- Eucaris Moraes as Velha Bruxa