Born on Friday the 13th, in March 1936, before he was Zé do Caixão, José was just José Mojica Marins, son of Spaniards who lived in the Vila Mariana neighborhood.
Since he was a child, Zé was interested in cinema, thanks to his father, Antônio André Marin, who worked in cinema projection rooms on the west side, in Vila Anastácio. When he was 12, he won a V-8 camera and his enthusiasm for the seventh art became more serious.
At the age of 20, he already founded his school of actors in an old synagogue in Brás, and there he experimented and tested his courage with insects in his pupils. Considered as one of the inspirers of marginal cinema due to the lack of funds for productions and the different way of the familiar Hollywood type.
Despite being world famous for his horror productions, José Mojica also worked with westerns, dramas, adventures and even pornochanchadas – a famous genre of the 1970s, which mixes comedy with eroticism.
In 1958, he shot his first semi-professional and experimental film, which was never finished. In the same year, he launched a dramatic caboclo western, whose cast consisted of students from his school, with the exception of Ruth Ferreira and Shirley Alvez.
He has eschatological terror as a trademark of his works, and also for the raw way of production – initially given by the lack of resources; José Mojica was the first in the country to make horror films and only when his work was considered cult outside the country did it become prominent in the country.
At the beginning, José was widely despised by national critics, having a notable success in 1964, with the feature, whose protagonist enshrined his nickname.
Zé do Caixão, curiously, was born from a dream of Mojica, in which an entity dragged him through the cemetery to his own grave. The next day, he immediately started writing the script and, thus, the work that would become his main reference was born.
Zé do Caixão was a nickname for Josefel Zanatas – Josefel for the ‘gall’, that is, bitter and Zatanas as a way to write Satan backwards. His character is a nihilistic and cruel undertaker, who terrifies the residents of a small town in the interior of São Paulo; with an obsession to continue his lineage – which he considers superior – he seeks a woman capable of generating his offspring, who in this case is the girlfriend of his best friend, which does not prevent him from pursuing her.
The character’s look was inspired by Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931) and the remarkable nails of the German Count Orlock, from Nosferatu (1922). The top hat as a macabre charm, still would not erase the Brazilianness in the grave digger.
With the success of the feature film, average in Brazil, and booming in the United States and Europe, where he received awards, in 1968 his sequel is launched, which José Mojica considers as his masterpiece.
In 2015, the first film entered the list of the 100 best Brazilian films of all time made by the Brazilian Association of Film Critics (Abraccine).
At the time he was shooting, he found himself without resources to continue production, which had to sell the rights to the film. He suffered censorship by the military at the time, due to the amoral and subversive content of his works, which hindered his true recognition, being able to truly enjoy his fame only in 1990, when he received an award for his works in the United States. He became known there as Coffin Joe.
Still in the 1990s, he presented the program Cine Trash, from TV Bandeirantes, in which horror films were shown. He became a character of Maurício de Souza, Zé Canjica, and was honored in the adult drawing of MTV, in which the school the class attended was named EEPSG Professor José Mojica Marins.
His work was not so recognized by the public because there are few films of his available on the market – until then, there were no films of his own on any streaming platform, for example, with the exception of his program on Canal Brasil in 2008,.
In the same year, the end of the Zé do Caixão trilogy is released, now with an adequate budget, 30 years after Marins’ last direction in a feature film.
The space channel – of subscription television -, produced in 2015, a miniseries inspired by the life of José Mojica, named, in which the director was played by Matheus Nachtergaele. It was also in that year that Marins made his last work, an independent production film, which was not only directed by Zé, but also by other masters of Brazilian terror such as Rodrigo Aragão (), Peter Baiestorf () and Joel Caetano () .
The film is divided into five short films, which depict a darker version of Brazilian folklore. Thus, Zé do Caixão directed what Saci told. He directed 40 productions and performed in more than 50, throughout his career.
José Mojica Marins leaves his wife, Edineide Silva, seven children, 12 grandchildren, a great-granddaughter and a powerful legacy not only for Brazilian cinema, but for the horror genre in cinema.