You may remember that back in the earlier part of this decade, Spike TV resurrected Ren & Stimpy. Basically they gave creator John K. free reign, and he delivered 10 adult-themed episodes. The emphasis was clearly on the visuals; the sole purpose of the stories were to add some semblance of structure to each animated sequence—but the animation was superb.
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is pretty much the same thing.
The animation is top-notch and heavily derived from John K.’s style. And, like John K.’s cartoons, it’s filled with innumerable little details and delightful visual gags while at the same time maintaining a sense of spontaneity and chaos.
But, like I also said, the script is thinner than a bulimic notecard. All the gags are visual, while the dialogue is all cliché and catch-phrase. That doesn’t make it inherently bad, but it’s just not funny. In fact, I can’t recall laughing at a single line (well, “How long does it take to saw the finger off a corpse?” got a chuckle). It also makes me wonder why the need for so many big-name actors—they all do a fine job (I didn’t even recognize Paul Giamatti), but were they really necessary?
The constant references to other movies and characters also gets old. They don’t serve any narrative or visual purpose other than to let the viewer know that, yeah, Zombie’s seen that movie, too. Well, so has everyone else; what’s your point?
The premise (if you need one) is that hero El Superbeasto is some kind of celebrity in his home town of Monster-opolis. While he directs pizzeria-themed pornos, his sister, the curvy and exhibitionistic Suzi X, fights zombie Nazis with her robot companion Murray, who is secretly in love with Suzi.
Against this backdrop, the evil Dr. Satan and his henchmen Otto, a super-intelligent gorilla, attempt to locate the one girl in town with the number of the beast tattooed onto her right buttock. If they do, then Dr. Satan can marry her and through some ritual gain “all the sudsy powers of Hell!”
I’m willing to accept a premise no matter how outlandish as long as it pays off, and I am pleased to say that El Superbeasto frequently delivers. There are some (though not many) sequences whose sheer creativity, both in terms of animation and context, kept a goofy grin plastered across my face. Just writing them out is fun:
* In one early scene, Suzi X is chased through town by a team of zombie Nazis while a Beatles-esque song whose lyrics not only describe but also comment on the action plays in the background.
* Otto (the gorilla) lays out Dr. Satan’s evil plan in a brutal takedown/parody of Schoolhouse Rock (and thank you, Rob Zombie, for this: I hated Schoolhouse Rock).
* El Superbeasto beats a giant sewer lamprey to death with the oversized testicles of a cat-man.
And Dr. Satan’s hilarious rampage through town—which includes him putting out a giant cigarette on a box of free kittens—had me in stitches. Bonus points for the Benny Hill reference, too.
I should also note the music is well done, too. The big musical numbers never wear out their welcome and in a very wise move on Zombie’s part, the bulk of them are used to deliver exposition.
Now I have to admit I’m coming into this a Rob Zombie virgin. I’ve never seen a film of his, but I gather from reading the reviews of others that two major themes in his work is decadence and depravity. If that’s the case, then fans of Rob Zombie likely will not be disappointed with The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.
All in all, great animation, some very good music, not much else. You’ll probably enjoy it on the first viewing, but I doubt you’ll be returning to it anytime soon. Unless you’re a sucker for catfights, violence, and huge cartoon boobies.