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Awakening of the Beast
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Awakening of the Beast (1970)

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Plot Summary:
"Psychiatrist experiments LSD on 4 volunteers, to investigate Coffin Joe's influence over them. Each patient presents a different reaction, involving sex, perversion and sadism."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 17 October 2011 My Rating: out of 5


Working somewhere in between mockumentary and horror anthology this film deals with several tales of moral depravity and drug-taking. The most important is the final one in which a psychiatrist conducts tests on a group of volunteers who are administered LSD, and shown the films of Jose Mojica Marins and his blaspheming villain character Zť do Caixao. The mixture of hallucinogenic drugs and nightmarish horror imagery seems to terrorise the test subjects.

This bizarro, ultimately unsuccessful 1969 offering (but only released in the 90s after long being banned) from cult Brazilian filmmaker Jose Mojica Marins really only has loose association with the so-called ĎCoffin Joeí (Zť do Caixao) series that first introduced us to Marinsí mesmerising Zť do Caixao character (beginning with the excellent ďAt Midnight Iíll Take Your SoulĒ and followed by the exceptionally weird ďThis Night Iíll Possess Your CorpseĒ). As a curio, itís interesting, but not exactly Ďfuní in any sense that I personally recognise. I donít regret having seen it, but I donít think Iíll be watching it again, either.

Itís strangely watchable in a sleazy (yet somewhat chaste by todayís standards) way, but I just donít share Marinsí seeming panty-sniffing perversion, Iím afraid, and the film doesnít really work. The wraparound scenes where Marins (essentially as himself) discusses the backlash against the films with critics take too long to be woven into the rest of the film (which is a very loose anthology), and itís annoying given how brief these wraparound scenes actually are. For the longest time it doesnít make much sense how the LSD stuff is related to the wraparound scenes, and even by the end I felt like Marins was trying to shoehorn criticism about his films into an LSD film. Rather than a debate about the effects of violent films on people, it seemed more like a self-indulgent, self-serving rebuttal/whinge session masquerading as a legit feature film.

Like I said, it has a curio factor (especially for Marins fans), but poorly done and not especially Ďfuní or shocking. Brazilians, on the evidence of this film, have some very strange and curiously juvenile fetishes like kicking women in the behind and sniffing underwear. I just wish these fetishes were entertaining to me, but largely they arenít. The constant moaning and screaming doesnít help, I mean, itís not a porno, Jose! Theyíre not even especially kinky, certainly nothing like the Ďwild orgyí alluded to in the film. Yes, thereís a woman being violated with a stuck and a scene where smoke comes out of bottom cheeks with faces painted on them, but that last one is more WTF than kinky (Iíve heard Marins say that the painted faces were meant to be a cheap way to create ĎMartiansí. What, from the planet Uranus?). I really didnít know what to make of it at times, nor will most other viewers.

The camerawork is good, with some inventive angles and shots for an obviously ultra low-budget film. There is some nice composition and a lovely mixture of expressionistic lighting and technicolour weirdness (the film is in both B&W and colour at different stages).

The title is certainly pretty clever, but overall, this isnít especially well-done and seems to be a private joke by Marins himself. Iím not sure if itís anything more than a curio at best.

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