Good things come in threes...

... like, celebrity deaths, for instance.

That's not very nice.

Anyway, I'm determined to salvage some of Friday night and finish this by 11:00 or so instead of 3:00 a.m., which'll give me more quality time to spend with my attitude problem. So, you only get three this time, but I liked all three, so, that's not so bad, I think, since it's still fer-free.

Here goes...

Embodiment of Evil (C, 2008) aka Encarnacao do Demonio, Devil's Reincarnation. Third of director Jose Mojica Marins' Coffin Joe trilogy picks up forty years later, with the 75-year-old psychopath being released from prison (where he's killed many other inmates) and picking up where he left off in his obsessive quest to reach immortality by having a son by a "superior woman." Coffin Joe has a dedicated cult of goth-type followers ready to do his bidding... which he might get around to if he can stop having hallucinations in which he's tormented by victims of his past crimes (including snippets from the first two films, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse). Like the others the film seems to be a work of madness and the storyline and all its philosophical gobbledygook is mostly an excuse for sick images and gore effects, which are well-done and pretty hardcore-nasty, such as a girl getting a buttock sliced off, which she then eats, or a girl being birthed from the guts of a pig, or spiders attacking from a half-corpse's innards. Visually there's some strangeness, such as black-and-white ghosts moving through the in-color world. Marins himself holds up well, still pulling off his megalomaniacal Coffin Joe shtick with enthusiasm and genuine eccentricity (he's a nasty little guy, with real three-inch fingernails and badly-trimmed beard exploited to the grotty fullest), and he creates some inspired visuals reminiscent of Jodorowsky (but nastier, such as drowning someone in a barrel of cockroaches, or a girl raped with a live rat). I wasn't expecting much because most horror directors tend to lose their artistic vision with age (check out recent works from George Romero or Dario Argento, for instance) but Marins apparently still has some things he's eager to say... even if they're really pretty crazy things. I suspect some of the special effects -- such as lips sewn shut and a guy lifted by hooks pierced through his back -- might be the real deal, and he's not shy about nudity, either. I don't think any fans of the first two will be disappointed by this follow-up.

Trailer here

Encounter With The Unknown (C, 1973) Cheap and crude horror anthology that plays like three episode of One Step Beyond smooshed together, although it's clear they were hoping for a Twilight Zone or Night Gallery comparison instead, because they somehow got Rod Serling to narrate it. The production is amateurish and the stories seem like they were pulled from an old House of Mystery comic, but it does have a certain Boggy Creek-ish charm, and it's a treat for fans of S. F. Brownrigg's movies because I spotted at least a half a dozen actors from his films in it. The first story is the very simple and straightforward tale of three gruesome-looking youths who play a prank on an even-more-hilariously-gruesome-looking friend (imagine Steve Buscemi doubling down on what makes him unique), which results in his ridiculous death. At his funeral, his mother - pulling a face almost like the one Donald Sutherland did at the end of that Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake -- curses them all. The whammy works, or how would we get a story out of it? The second story involves a farm kid finding a steamy hole in the ground with monster-roaring coming from it. There's apparently something mind-destroyingly terrifying down there, but we'll have to take their word for it, because the movie courteously refrains from destroying our minds by not showing us. The last story (reuniting Don't Look In The Basement's Rosie Holotik and Gene Ross) is the ol' phantom hitchhiker tale. If you nod off during any of the slow-moving stories, fear not - as soon as the stories are over, they start up again in Reader's Digest condensed form, while a not-Serling narrator babbles about supernatural forces. Probably too homely a film for normal people, but it's gold for trash fiends.

Watch the whole thing starting here.

Rituals (C, 1976) aka The Creeper. Deliverance-inspired wilderness horror from Canada, in which five doctors take a hiking trip in the woods, only to fall victim to a stalker who has a justifiable grudge against doctors, due to incompetent surgeries that left him hideously deformed. First the maniac harasses them by stealing their boots and dropping beehives on them and hiding animal traps for them to step in. As he whittles down the number of victims his terrorizing becomes more intense and their odds of survival become pretty scant. It's an early take on survival horror done in a raw but effective style and even though it's not as scary or as much of a masterpiece as its original source, it's justifiably a classic in its own right, and is crucial viewing for any horror fan. Hal Holbrook is especially good as one of the most determined-to-live potential victims, and the atmosphere of isolation is heady stuff. One problem with this movie is that most of the copies that have been available on VHS and cheaper DVDs have about ten minutes chopped out of them (a butcher job nearly as bad as that done on the film's villain). Code Red finally got their uncut DVD out after over a year of frustrating delays and false-starts, and it's well worth tracking down. Despite some unavoidable print damage (which really isn't that terrible unless you're a video prima-donna who has no business following the grindhouse genre to begin with) it was well worth the wait to see the full thing.

Trailer here.

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