RIO DE JANEIRO — It has been 28 years since the master of Brazil’s terror pics, helmer Jose Mojica Marins, made the last feature starring himself as Ze do Caixao (Coffin Joe). But the remarkable image of the devilish, extravagantly finger-nailed Coffin Joe is still alive in the imagination of millions of Brazilians.

Coffin Joe is now back in “Encarnacao do demonio” (Devil’s Reincarnation), lensing in Sao Paulo till Dec. 21. The Olhos de Cao production is due to open in the second half of next year.

“Reincarnation” is the sequel to Coffin Joe features “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” and “This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse,” made in the 1960s.

The helmer directed a series of other pics starring Coffin Joe up to 1978, but he never managed to make “Reincarnation.” Mojica says three producers committed to making “Reincarnation,” but died before accomplishing the project.

The local press talks of a Coffin Joe curse, further stimulated by the Nov. 27 death of natural causes during “Reincarnation’s” lensing of Jesse Valadao, who played an important role in the pic.

But the true curse of Mojica is the prejudice against his work. In Brazil’s highly subsidized film production sector, he directed 29 features, including some B.O. hits, and dozens of shorter pics without using a single penny of Brazilian taxpayers. His work was seen as trashy and unworthy of public funding.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Mojica dedicated himself to other projects. He made videos, wrote short stories and comicbooks, performed in several pics and one telenovela, presented TV terror shows, hosted terror circus shows in a local carnival, and even directed porn pics.

The perception of the helmer’s work started to change sometime in the 1990s.

Local critics recognized the originality of Mojica’s terror pics. Andre Barcinski and Ivan Finotti directed doc “Coffin Joe: The Strange World of Jose Mojica Marins” that received a special jury mention in the 2001 Sundance Fest.

This year, Brazil’s Ministry of Culture granted $460,000 to the production of “Reincarnation.” Producers raised the remaining coin through the country’s tax shelter system.

“I have never worked with so many people. In the old days, my team totaled not more than 15 people and each had to do different jobs. Now I have a crew of 70 highly specialized workers,” Mojica says.

In “Reincarnation,” Coffin Joe continues his obsessive search, initiated in the trilogy’s first two pics, for the perfect woman who will give birth to his perfect son.

What is left to be seen is whether Coffin Joe will also find his public in the 21st century or will be relegated to the fringes.