I was a fan of Rob Zombie’s films. Was.
His first two grindhouse horror style were actually very well executed and overlooked. “House of 1000 Corpses” is one of the most visceral horror films I have ever seen since, perhaps, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He knew exactly how to explore the deepest His remake of Halloween was…well, it was not awful and actually had a good performance from Malcolm McDowell. And then, we have The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.
I have no idea who the intended audience for this film was. It is meant to be the sort of thing that Ralph Bakshi would have done in the 1970s – cartoon characters having sex for the sole purpose to show it. Yet it wasn’t really funny or enticing when Bakshi did it, and it becomes even less so when Rob Zombie does it.
The plot: El Beasto (Tom Papa) is a super celebrity who wears a Mexican wrestler’s mask. His sister is Suzi X (Sherri Moon Zombie), although he is quite a womanizer. Well, one of his conquests is Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson), who is kidnapped by Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti) so he can use her to gain occult powers.
I could spend the entire review picking apart every single thing that is wrong with that movie; so I will. First, the animation. I cannot tell what style it is supposed to be. It is as if the creator of Ren and Stimpy underwent a full frontal lobotomy. Evenying about the character’s movements makes no sense; I know that is the point of animation, but considering the point of the women is for them to be erotic, the fact that I am fully aware that they are blots of ink kind of means that I cannot look at them in that regard. One female character even blows on her thumb in order to increase the size of her breasts. How is anyone supposed to make sense of that scene? Maybe it would have worked in live action. Not animation. Not even Bakshi tried to get away with something like that.
So, at a basic level, it fails. And then the satire of the B- movie aesthetic doesn’t work either. This was what I expected to work, and Rob Zombie certainly did not fail with his ambition. The film is packed with every single movie monster imaginable, from the Bride of Frankenstein to the xenomorphy. But it never goes beyond that – we recognize them but Zombie never uses them. It is the equivalent of going into a costume shop and pointing out which characters you recognize. Sure, it may be fun, but it is a forgettable experience.
Even the dated references are not funny. The entire film does seem to resemble (what else) a 1970s exploitation film. This could have been used to funny ends. What would it be like if someone combined the animation of Bakshi with the attitutude of blaxploitation. Oh, right. Coonskin. You see my point though – there could have been a good result from them. This was meant to be a comedy, but the jokes never build. We are reminded of James Bond psychadelia (particularly with Suzi) but it never goes anywhere. El Beasto is a waste – he is neither a parody of celebrity culture nor of the 1970s machismo and merely comes off as annoying. The only part that is funny is Dr. Satan – particularly the moment in which he goes through his previous wives (which have all been cryogenically frozen) and explains why he divorced them. One laugh in 77 minutes….we’re in Pauly Shore territory here.
But that is not the real problem of the film. No, the real problem of the film is how far it goes in trying to be erotic. I mentioned the animation, but that is just a part of it. This is a film in which a character names several synonyms of the vagina, while those same words flash at the bottom of the screen. I know that makes me sound prudish, but the whole movie tries to use that middle school approach to female sexuality (male characters are constantly the female ones). At some points, it just approahces creepy – Suzi X built a robot character that finds her hopelessly attratctive. Why? Why would she program him in this way? There is no reason – Zombie just seemed to think it would be funny. It all is like some sort of bizarre Russ Meyer wet dream, minus the tongue planted firmly in the cheek. Here, the tongue is planted in a far different place.
At the end of the day, this is not merely me not enjoying the movie. It affected me far worse. I felt unclean and frankly idiotic. This is the first movie I have ever seen where my response was to go and take a shower. Rob Zombie will always have House of 1000 Corpses and Devil’s Rejects. I know he can make funny films, and terrifying ones. This one was truly horrifying.