The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)

Review

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is what happens when a bored filmmaker gets the urge to make a movie that shocks for no other reason than the basic sick thrill of it. One can’t fault Rob Zombie for conjuring such repulsive ideas while sitting idle between horror porn projects — he is, after all, only human, and we know his disturbing track record. But as relentlessly nasty as his past films have been, there is still a fundamental difference between a movie like The Devil’s Rejects and a vomitorium like El Superbeasto, which plays like vile hate porn for narcissistic pop culture junkies.

The scattershot animated feature very clearly models itself after the shapeless anarchy of everyday half-hour cartoons, with the obvious addition of gleeful ultraviolence, pervasive nudity, chaotic hatred, and sexism so prevalent it’s paralyzing. The flick’s combination of ugly, amateurish animation and a completely ignorant use of heinous stereotypes makes it reminiscent of the early days of the animated short, when the silly hand-drawn characters galumphed around peddling virulent racism in the form of kiddie comedy. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is like that with sexism — except that it’s racist, too. Not sure what’s more offensive — the gun-toting, wife-beater-wearing urban American who stands to the side making off-color jokes, or the buxom superhero babe whose breasts make a honking noise when an old man squeezes them.

Is there any point in describing the plot? Zombie and company surely take great pride in the fact that what little plot there is couldn’t even hold itself together for a nine-minute short, let alone a 77-minute feature. El Superbeasto (voiced by Tom Papa) is the ‘hero,’ a large masked weirdo who is apparently known the world over for being a ‘man of action,’ but who spends more time tricking dim-witted, large-breasted women into his grasp than he does saving the day. I suppose the phrase ‘man of action’ could have multiple connotations. Anyway, he is a sex-crazed maniac with a more capable sister, Suzi X (Sheri Moon Zombie), who kicks ass but is viewed by the characters (and, one presumes, the filmmakers) as an hour-long boob joke. They are on a mission against Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti, who apparently sold his credibility to the devil), a weaselly demon who needs a stripper named Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson — gasp) to engage in an unholy marriage because she bears the mark of the devil on her behind, so he can become a gargantuan devil beast — oh, it doesn’t matter. An enterprise like this one doesn’t care one iota about the story, and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the goofy tangents and anarchic humor were even remotely funny. But they’re not; instead, they are among the most violently, recklessly offensive motion picture segments of the year. Taste is not a prerequisite for quality by any means — just ask Judd Apatow or Quentin Tarantino. But any off-color humor must be used in the appropriate context, and El Superbeasto would rape and pillage context until it ceases to exist.

Rob Zombie has never sold himself as anything other than a peddler of horror and shock, but at least his past films were aspiring to achieve something other than pure nastiness. His Halloween remakes are offensive because they intend to exploit under the sanctimonious guise of edgy high art, but The Haunted World of El Superbeasto doesn’t even operate under the guise of anything other than off-the-wall hatred. Sure, the Halloween films pretend to take themselves completely seriously when they are virtually identical to every other shock-porn movie that flickers on screens, but El Superbeasto‘s sin is nastier, more insidious. It pretends to not take itself seriously at all, yet the strains of sexism and racism run so deep that they can’t easily be played off by silly music.

That music, by the way, might have been the movie’s only saving grace, if it weren’t for the intense badness of its remainder. Zombie stretches for cleverness by filling the movie with frequent music montages ripped straight from old episodes of Schoolhouse Rock or Scooby-Doo – the only thing missing are the Brady kids-style interludes where the characters perform as a band at the end of the show. But these token moments of real wit, such as the songs ‘Why’d You Have to Rip Off Carrie?’ and ‘It’s Okay to Jerk Off to Animation’ are too few — and too meager — to save a motion picture that would only be entertaining to sociopaths.