Review Date: October 28, 2008
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 9/22/2009
Region 1, NTSC
There are few figures working in the horror genre today as polarizing as Rob Zombie. The shock rocker-turned writer-director seems to have detractors just as ardent and passionate as his fans. While I can appreciate that Zombie has skills behind the camera and the potential to be a great director, he coats everything he touches in a layer of grime, sleaze and hateful misogyny that complete undermines any respect I have for him as a director. However, the prospect of an animated film directed by Rob Zombie? Intriguing. Perhaps what is tough to watch with real live actors may take on a kind of mordant, manic genius when transported to the world of ink and paper.
Or maybe not.
El Superbeasto (voiced by Tom Papa
) is a luchador, porn film producer and general horn ball. His stepsister, Suzi X (Sheri Moon Zombie
) along with her transforming robot sidekick Murray (Brian Posehn) has made it her mission to recover (and, I’m assuming, destroy… the film isn’t real clear about things like motivation) the preserved head of Adolph Hitler from his legion of undead nazi soldiers. Meanwhile, in the bowels of Hell, Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti
) is scouring the globe looking for the woman that will help him fulfill an ancient prophecy that will grant him all the sudsy powers of Hell (yes, I said “sudsy” - I had to turn on the subtitles to confirm that one). He believes he’s found her in the visage of pneumatic stripper Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson
) and sends his super intelligent gorilla sidekick Otto (Tom Kenny
) to abduct her. Superbeasto witnesses the abduction and enlists the aid of his Suzi and Murray to help rescue Velvet, hoping that Velvet will be so grateful for the rescue that she’ll fuck him as a reward.
Aaaand…that’s pretty much the plot. It really serves as nothing more than a clothesline on which Zombie strings a series of sight gags and jokes. Which is as good an approach as any assuming, of course, the majority of the jokes and gags are funny. I was really hoping that El Superbeasto
would be good so I wouldn’t be stuck with the unenviable task of explaining why something isn’t funny. While I was watching this movie I was actually bending over to meet it halfway. Unfortunately, Zombie was determined to bludgeon me over the head with retarded juvenility to the point where I just couldn’t cut him any more slack and felt a fool for cutting him any in the first place.
The opening Frankenstein
homage was actually quite charming and got my hopes up. It seems that today every filmmaker is paying homage to the gritty films of the 70’s, whereas Zombie has more affection for the monster films of the 30’s and 40’s. His homage to older cinema doesn’t make him any more original per se, but it has the benefit of being novel. For the most part, though, the jokes don’t have any set up or context; they’re just film references thrown out and then tossed aside just as fast. That’s good for a few out of the blue laughs here and there but when nearly the entire movie consists of this type of humor it loses the element of surprise and thus stops being funny. There are a lot of jokes but precious little wit on display. And for a film so short, it takes a fuck ton of time to get started. The main plot (as it were) takes more than fifteen minutes to get rolling.
There are five words that every film fan should dread: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” I can’t even begin to catalogue how many moments and movies are ruined by filmmakers saying “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
is really nothing more than a collection of “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” moments. Zombie throws out film references fast and furious, even tackily referencing his own work, but he doesn’t seem to be saying anything for the most part. He does slip in a Halloween reference that says something. Unfortunately (if unsurprisingly) it says he has total contempt for that franchise. It’s still funnier than simply showing a Jack Torrance/Nicholson character and expecting to get a laugh. Hey! Look! It’s the mummy! Isn’t that funny? No, Rob it’s not, really.
Rob Zombie doesn’t seem to have an opinion on his own material. Take for instance the casting scene that introduces El Superbeasto
. There are several ways you can play this, it could be a spoof of Hollywood execs that value appearance over substance, or of pretentious actresses who want to “bring something new” to a role that really doesn’t require anything new, or the naiveté of young Hollywood starlets. Beyond some sight gags and tits, what is the point of this scene? I don’t know and to be honest I don’t think Zombie knows, either. Sight gags and tits are fine, but they can’t sustain a whole movie (even one with such a shot running time) and it’s disheartening that Zombie passes on the opportunity for some satire.
I think a big part of the reason these jokes don’t work is that horror and sexuality have always been intertwined, so he gets no mileage out of trying to shock with the juxtaposition of the two. Horror icons have always had edge to them and edge that is inevitably dulled with time. By reaching back to icons of the past, Zombie expects to cut with the dullest blades in the drawer.
Rob Zombie’s previous films are, across the board, marred by ugly misogyny. While much of the material here is undeniably sexist, to its credit El Superbeasto
never crosses the line the line into hateful mean-spiritedness. So it has that going for it. To be quite frank, though, it seems like Rob Zombie had very little to do with this movie. He’s credited as director but there are so many animation directors credited that this feels like a rubber-stamping job.
There is one moment that made me genuinely laugh out loud. It was the commercial for Beasto’s Jerky Boys
-like album of crank calls. It displayed the kind of out of nowhere zaniness that the entire movie strove for and missed so many times (plus it took the piss out of those ridiculous, and clearly staged, prank phone call compilations). Unfortunately its marred by an out of nowhere and completely unnecessary use of the “N-word”.
El Superbeasto simply isn’t a very funny or interesting character. He’s essentially a walking hard-on in a world populated by walking hard-ons. All through the movie I couldn’t help but compare El Superbeasto to Zapp Brannigan from Fututrama
. They’re essentially the same characters, except Zapp is actually funny. I think the reason is that Zapp almost always has a straight man to bounce off. It’s their reaction to his antics (or his obviousness to their reactions) that makes the joke funny.
Oddly enough the most interesting relationship in the film is the one between Suzy and her robot companion/transportation, Murray. Even though he lusts after her, his inability to express himself makes him relatable and, yes, even sympathetic. Only in a Rob Zombie movie would a robot show more humanity than any of the humans. Still it’s underdeveloped. Just look at the So Beautiful, So Deadly sequence from Heavy Metal
and you’ll see how clever filmmakers could get more out of a robot/human romance sexual relationship in less than half the screen time that’s allotted here.
As a side note, Sheri Moon Zombie is such a lovely and engaging person when she’s not in Baby Firefly mode. It’s kind of depressing that she and her husband think that screeching like a harpy constitutes entertainment.
Animation fans probably won’t find a whole hell of a lot to like here, either. There are a few scattered references to the animation of John Krickfaluci but surprisingly Zombie never even goes as far into to the inspired squalor of your average Ren & Stimpy
cartoon. The exterior of Dr. Satan’s layer has the manic Mad magazine aesthetic to it that the rest of the film could have used. Most of the animation, however, particularly of the Nazi Ghouls has a 1970’s Hanna Barbera, Scooby Doo look to it. You only need to look at the Zombie-influence hallucination sequence in Beavis and Butthead Do America
to see what El Superbeasto
could have and should have been. That little sequence packs more wit, energy and visual detail into three minutes than El Superbeasto
does in seventy-seven.
Colours are bright, but there’s hideous edge enhancement on just about every sharp line in the picture. There’s also a lot of jagginess on dark outlines as well as what looks to be intentional smearing when the characters move. It looks like shit and is prevalent to the point of distraction. The animation isn’t very detailed so there’s no reason to have these kinds of issues. On the plus side the primary skewing colour palette really pops off the screen.
The audio consists solely of an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Truth be told, it’s more like a Dolby Pro Logic track. It’s front heavy and the rear surrounds are just the front channels at lower volume, with a lot of hiss in the back channels. Low-end bass is virtually non-existent. Odd, considering Rob Zombie’s roots as a rocker and that the soundtrack is filled with music by the comedy rock band Hard and Phirm
, that we’re given such lame audio.
Rob Zombie fans spoiled by the wealth or riches on his last couple of DVDs are going to be sorely disappointed here. The special features are sparse and not really worth your time. First we have Deleted Scenes and Shots (4:27). It’s not hard to see why they were deleted. They really wouldn’t have contributed anything unless, maybe, while watching the feature you were disappointed by the lack of scenes featuring El Superbeasto flexing his ass cheeks. In which case, dig in and enjoy.
Alternate Scenes (35:13) consists of storyboards and pencil tests for scenes that were never animated, as well as extended versions of scenes that appear in the feature. I can see how pencil tests for a Disney film would an interesting way to watch the progression of a complex piece of animation but here they really just look like a coluring book version of the movie itself.
I try to take a bottom line approach to evaluating movies. Put all flaws aside, does it deliver on the bottom line? Did the comedy make me laugh? Was the action movie exciting? Was the horror movie scary? It’s often far too easy to hone in on a single aspect of a movie, tear it to shreds and then dismiss the rest of the movie based on that one flaw. The bottom line here is that El Superbeatso
really didn’t make me laugh. I smiled a bit, and gave a faint chuckle here and there but I really didn’t enjoy myself all that much and that’s the bottom line. Given that the video quality of the DVD is so deficient and the extras so lacking, I wouldn’t even recommend it to rabid Rob Zombie fans.
Movie - D+
Image Quality - C-
Sound - C+
Supplements - C
- Running time - 1 hour 17 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- Deleted and alternate scenes