Exploring Brazilian Horror – At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964)

After hearing film journalist Jonathan Ross discuss the Brazilian horror ‘Coffin Joe’ trilogy, I was compelled to find out more about this as my knowledge of South American horror, was quite limited.

Released in 1964, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, is a gothic supernatural horror that drips style but is also shockingly violent at times, with one sequence seeing a man cut off another person’s fingers with a broken wine bottle plus another scene where a doctor is blinded by two sharp fingernails. Talk about creativity.

Interestingly, we follow the journey of Ze, a man who has recently discovered his wife cannot bear children. He works in a small town as their undertaker and has an unspoken supernatural quality plus he was known to the local witch, who hangs out in the woods nearby. While this may seem like standard horror genre tropes, the fact they double down on the campy elements and maximise all of the mise-en-scene means it can provide chills even during scenes that could come across slightly hammy.

Ze, is not a good person, as he beats and eventually kills his wife for her inability to reproduce, whilst terrorising the inhabitants of the local bar when he feels like it.

The film is written and directed by Jose Mojica Marins, who also plays the role of the dastardly Ze, who only gets worse as the film goes on. The only saving grace as he terrorises this small village is the local witch who curses him that if he doesn’t stop he will be punished at midnight (as per the title) on Dia de Muertos aka the Day of the Dead before it became mainstream popular with sugar skulls as far as the eye could see.

It would be easy prey to criticise the special effects which are employed when the dead do come to haunt Ze, but they are definitely offset by some fantastic practical effects, especially one sequence where worms are crawling through a recently deceased woman’s face plus the aforementioned finger amputations with a broken bottle.

Overall At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a fascinating look back at some bold filmmaking from Brazil, with Marins not afraid to introduce audiences to visceral content, with rape and beating also featured during the film alongside the violent attack scenes.

It is stylishly shot, with its limited locations feeling lived in and beautifully gothic again before this really became fully embraced by Hollywood.

You can watch At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul on YouTube below –

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