Movie Review : Awakening of the Beast (1970)
* This review was written by Leza Cantoral of CLASH Media. Leza is the author of Cartoons in the Suicide Forest and the Editor in Chief of CLASH Books. She is the host of the Get Lit With Leza podcast where she talks to cool ass writers. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Awakening of the Beast is like Reefer Madness meets Kenneth Anger meets Jean-Luc Goddard meets Cat in the Brain by Lucio Fulci. Coffin Joe goes meta in the third installment of the series. José Mojica Marins plays himself, defending his art in the eyes of a culture that judges him as a bad influence, a corruptor of innocence.
The first half of the film consists of scenes of depravity involving sex, drugs, murder, voyeurism, rape, and prostitution. Many gross men pushing themselves upon reluctant and protesting women. A casting couch where the-would-be-starlet is picturing the leering producer who is pawing at her as a slobbering dog as she wrestles with her disgust and her hopes of becoming a star—a familiar situation.
Heroin being injected into ankles, a woman dying in the worst way possible at the hands of a man dressed like Moses, jazzy naked people dancing, bongo drumming, men who look like animals, women mourning their lost innocence and deflowering, and scenes from the Coffin Joe films being screened before test subjects on LSD.
Awakening of the Beast shows a Brazil that is in perpetual contradiction, as exhibit A. Deeply religious and concerned with morality and yet rife with corruption, human trafficking, exploitation, and poverty. Marins choses cinema to laugh at the tragedies he sees in his world. He uses art to expose the darkness and depravity, the lies people tell themselves, the contradictions of a culture divided against itself.
He goes before the court of law to be judged by the Brazilian people who accuse him of the corrupting influence of his art.
When asked, “Can’t you make a movie with a positive message?” by a cross examiner at his trial on court T.V., Marins replies:
“Making a film in this country is like making a space ship and sending it to the moon! We have no resources to make movies. The filmmaker must create a character. He must attack on all fronts.”
Awakening of the Beast is a movie about making movies. The films of Marins are used by a doctor to conduct experiments on 4 drug addicts using LSD. They are exposed to his films and comic books.
As the film switched to color for the hell scene in This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse, so does this one, once the LSD has been taken. You see the world through the eyes of the tests subjects, who are tripping balls on Coffin Joe. You enter a dark paradise where Coffin Joe is king of disordered minds and disorderly conduct.
The visions take on new dimensions of horror and surreality that taps into your spinal cortex as your conscious mind is scrambled just like those ‘this is your brain on drugs’ commercials.
Seriously, if for nothing else, you need to watch this for the dancing butt faces. You will be dreaming of them for weeks. Awakening of the Beast is a horror show in the best way possible. Marins proves he has not lost his mindfucking mojo, in this third installment of the Coffin Joe series.