Thursday, January 07, 2010

Movie Review - The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)

Rob Zombie’s movie efforts have truly been hit or miss. After the mental rape that was his remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween brilliance, I’ve begun to think that maybe House of 1000 Corpses and Devil’s Rejects was an aberration.

I just finished watching his cartoon, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto and I’m conflicted how I feel about it. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I’ll give you an idea of what it’s about.

El Superbeasto takes place in Monsterland, a fantasy place created by Rob Zombie during his foray into comics. The move from comics to a cartoon seemed the next logical step, and far be it from Rob to pass up a chance to expand his empire (and provide yet another opportunity to let his wife think she’s got some talent.) El Superbeasto follows the adventures of the titular character, a washed up superhero/luchador whose ego is as big as his schlong. He’s a porno producer and, after a night of debauchery devolves into a monster attack, he does what any guy would do – he totters off to the strip club to pick up more easy women.

While there, El Superbeasto (voiced by Tom Papa) meets and falls in love with Velvet Von Black (who is voiced with deliciously profane gusto by one of Dr. Z’s favorite and lust-inducing actresses – Rosario Dawson). Before he can put the moves on her, though, she is kidnapped by Otto – the gorilla sidekick of Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti). Dr. Satan needs Velvet Von Black (and the 666 birthmark on her ample, curvy ass) to fulfill his destiny and destroy the world. El Superbeasto decides to save her because he really has to have sex with her, so he enlists the help of his superhero step-sister, Suzi-X and her perpetually horny robot sidekick, Murray the Robot.

The plot devolves into absurdity and is the weakest part of this whole sordid affair. Does it really matter what happens?

What’s important here is that this cartoon is not Bugs Bunny and most definitely something to watch when the kids are around. It is profane, raunchy, and filled with more animated tits and nipples than anything this side of the average Japanese, hentai, tentacle rape anime.

And this is where the conflict occurs for me. I love the concept. Monsterland is filled with all of the Halloween trappings and characters that Doctor Zombie so loves. It’s like an Eric Pigors love fest. Ever major horror franchise and icon is referenced and it is good. (Ironically, there is a scene where El Superbeasto hits Michael Meyers with his car, killing him. I’m sure it was meant to be a cool nod to Rob’s involvement in his aborted attempts at Halloween, but all I could think was that maybe Rob was acknowledging the hit and run job he did on those movies. I could only hope that he has that level of self-awareness. But I doubt it. ) The animation is beautiful. It has the feel of the old Ren and Stimpy cartoons, but with a significantly higher quality that is beautiful to look at.

It had ghouls, demons, vampires, Nazi zombies, werewolves, hot rods and all the things that are guaranteed to make Doctor Z. shiver with ecstasy.

But the story and writing were terrible.

This, I think, is Rob’s fatal weakness when it’s come to his forays onto the silver screen. The humor and dialogue were meant to be edgy and crass and completely over the top. You almost feel that Rob was shooting for an anarchist’s response to the pressure to tame his other movies by going completely the other way. Instead, one is left with the feeling that a couple of immature twelve year olds who just cracked the profanity technology got a hold of a camera and discovered that they could say “Shit”, “Fuck”, and “Pussy” on YouTube. A lot. Like every other word. Like, when you’re at a loss for something to say, say a profanity, because that’s funny.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not offended by the profanity. Doctor Z. is an adult and I LOVE to fucking swear. But when it doesn’t help the story or is done simply because… it becomes uninteresting.

That said, there is some funny dialogue here and there. Everything that Rosario Dawson says is hilarious. And that’s what saves Rob’s poor script… the voice casting.

Rob has made a cottage industry out of employing his friends in every movie he does. There’s entire groups of actors out there who are making money solely because of Rob Zombie. And they’re all here --Brian Posehn , Sid Haig, Danny Trejo, Clint Howard, Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley, and even the epitome of nepotism – Rob’s wife, Sherri Moon Zombie.

Add into this some of the greatest voice actors out there today (including SpongeBob Squarepants hisself – Tom Kenny) and you have a cast that raises the inadequacies of the poor story to a level that makes it worth watching. I’ve already mentioned how brilliant Rosario Dawson was. The rest of the cast are incredible. Not being a fan of Tom Papa’s comedy – I was surprised at how well his voice matched the swagger and bravado that El Superbeasto embodied. Paul Giamatti is at his best when he’s being a bad guy, and he made Dr. Satan believable and awesome in his evilness.

In fact, and it really, really pains me to say this, even Sherri Moon Zombie did a great job. Her squeaky annoying voice was not so squeaky or annoying and - I think – this medium may be better suited to her negligible talents. What I’m saying is, she has a cartoon voice – and it works in cartoons. So there’s that.

Finally, we come to the score. Rob’s go-to music guy is Tyler Bates, and he wrote a variety of songs that were as expletive-laced as the rest of this outing. Every major character has a theme song, and the songs themselves are not anything brilliant (songs like this have been done before, and better, by the likes of Trey Parker and Danny Elfman) but there is some good here. When the soundtrack’s not singing about genitalia and variations on the word ‘fuck’, there are some high points. One of those high points is in the Nazi zombie theme. A surf punk sound, the song has an earworm effect that’s not wholly unpleasant. Also, during a cat fight scene between Velvet Von Black and Suzi-X where the end up all nekkid – the lyrics of the accompanying song assure us that “It’s okay to beat off to cartoons, the Japanese do it all the time. So beat off for America.”

That’s fucking funny.

Although, a quick perusal of the internet shows that there’s no actual soundtrack out there, I don’t think I’d buy it anyway. It’s not good enough for frequent listening and – truthfully – I’d have to hide the cd in my Jeep with my Tenacious D cd’s – where they too would never get listened to because my kids are always in the car.

So, overall, how did I rate Rob Zombie’s Haunted World of El Superbeasto? I actually rate it pretty high. It’s not high art, and it’s definitely not horror… but the horror references were gratifying and the voice actors made it a good time. The animation was top notch and – on subsequent viewings – I’m sure that I’ll see other things that will please me. In fact, when considering the totality of Rob Zombie’s oeuvre, and to be honest with myself and you, dear reader; I would place this film on equal footing with House of a 1000 corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. Which is light years past the Halloween attempts. Is it worth it to buy it? Absolutely.

So that’s good right?



Mojito Libre said...

You're a better man than me. I watched this and within about 20 minutes, my mind had wandered off and I began to actually read a book for the rest of the film. I can't remember what it was, but there was exactly 1 line that actually made me laugh. Other than that, it was over the top for over the top's sake and the writing and story were horrible. Oh well, I also tried liver and onions once in my life, as well.

glittergirl said...

i'm gonna skip this one. thanks for the review and saving me the 2 hours. after halloween 2 i think i'm done with mr. zombie.

but here's a movie suggestion: house of the devil.

you might love it. it's at least as good as "trick-r-treat" with a neat 80's horror vibe.

Dr. Zombie said...

It was bad. And not in the good way. In hindsight, I don't I'd recommend someone run out and buy it. It might be fun to watch when drunk or high... but I'm too old for all of that. And that's the key point here. It was meant for adults, but wallowed in the area of badness reserved for the hopelessly immature. Like South Park... but not smart and funny.

And GG - I've added House of the devil to my Netflix queue... I'm looking forward to it.