Rob Zombie’s “The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto” (2009)

While Rob Zombie was working on his film career, he also turned his creative attentions towards a character named El Superbeasto, whom he had previously given life to in comic book form.  In 2006, he decided to adapt El Superbeasto’s exploits into an animated feature in the vein of adult-oriented cartoons like REN & STIMPY or SOUTH PARK.  Writing and recording it proved easy enough, but the simplistic, cel-drawn animation took an unexpectedly long time.  So long, in fact, that Zombie had to put the project on hold several times to focus on his live-action work.  In 2009, the final result of his efforts, THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO, was quietly released direct to video—and understandably so.  It’s easily the worst thing Zombie’s ever done.  The oversexed, filthy comedy simply isn’t bold and edgy like SOUTH PARK.  Instead, it just feels juvenile and misguided.

El Superbeasto (Tom Papa) is a cocky, over-sexed adult film star and producer by day, vigilante crimefighter by night.  That is, he would be if he weren’t so obsessed with getting laid all the time.  The current focus of his “admiration” is Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson), a sassy stripper who has also drawn the eye of the nebbish fiend Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti).  Dr. Satan kidnaps Von Black in hopes that she will become his bride, and he can fulfill his destiny as the full-fledged Satan, God Of The Underworld.  It’s up to El Superbeasto and his sister/sidekick Suzi X (Sheri Moon Zombie) to venture into Dr. Satan’s lair and retrieve her before he destroys the world.

Zombie’s cast is surprising to me, as it boasts several well-respected actors that you wouldn’t expect to fit into the director’s particular aesthetic.  This is evident in Giamatti and Dawson’s presence.  Giamatti disguises his voice to an almost-unrecognizable degree and hams it up beyond all restraint.  Assuming her best “ghetto queen” demeanor, Dawson’s collaboration with Zombie marks their second time working together—she had had a brief appearance as a nurse in 2005’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS but was cut out entirely).

It falls to rising comedian Tom Papa to anchor the film as the misogynist luchadore El Superbeasto.  Papa may not physically look the part, but that’s the beauty of animation—only your voice has to match.  For all the film’s faults, Papa does his best to deliver energy and a dry sense of humor to the proceedings.  The low-profile nature of THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO means that Zombie gets to fill out the remainder of the cast with his favorite people: Dee Wallace, Ken Foree, Danny Trejo, wife Sheri Moon Zombie, and Bill Moseley and Sid Haig (reprising their characters from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003) and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, albeit in cartoon form).

The medium of animation allows for Zombie to do a stylized, expressionistic riff on his trademark aesthetic.  He draws on the bright, colorful style of popular children’s cartoons like SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS or REN & STIMPY, perverting it through the filter of gore, nudity, and other decidedly-adult conventions.  Music is provided by Zombie’s regular composer Tyler Bates, who completely phones it in with a forgettable score.  The most memorable aspect of the music lies in Zombie’s hodgepodge of source cues and royalty free classical music (employed for ironic effect given the juvenile depravity on display).

After dabbling in director John Carpenter’s world with his two HALLOWEEN films, Zombie is firmly back within his own universe, populating his fictional world with classic Zombie hallmarks: Halloween masks, costumes, carnivals and clowns, burlesque dancers, and gore.  Not only is THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO highly referential to Zombie’s previous works (Zombie’s classic characters Captain Spaulding, Otis Driftwood and the werewolf Nazis from 2007’s GRINDHOUSE trailer segment are present, amongst others), but it also acknowledges the larger world of horror any chance it gets.  For instance, the film begins with a riff on the classic “audience warning opening of James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN(1931) and continues on to include several famous faces of horror, like a cameo of HALLOWEEN monster Michael Myers. By taking this tack, Zombie has built a world exclusively inhabited by the monsters and murderers of horror lore—a special world of their own where they can be the normal ones for once.

Overall, I had a pretty unpleasant time watching THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO.  While it’s interesting to see Zombie try something new, and while his decision to try his hand at animation is admirable, his approach proves uninspired and unentertaining.  At best, it’s a misguided, indulgent waste of time and money for a story that’s perhaps interesting only to Zombie himself and maybe his closest constituents.  Its low quality is indicative of the downward creative slide that Zombie experienced beginning with 2009’s HALLOWEEN II, and just might be the lowest point of his entire career.

THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO is currently available in a high definition Netflix stream.

Credits:

Produced by: Andy Gould, Tom Klein, Rob Zombie

Written by: Tom Papa, Rob Zombie

Production Designer: James Hegedus

Edited by: Bret Marnell

Music by: Tyler Bates