Fritz, Meet Beasto: Rob Zombie’s The Haunted World of El Superbeasto

I have defended Rob Zombie’s much-poo-pooed film career on this site before. I feel The Devil’s Rejects is a very good film, and that the rest of his oeuvre does not deserve the kind of demonization it has accrued with many internet critics. Earlier this month Zombie gave me reason to revoke my meaningless “internet geek seal of approval.” Halloween 2, to put it politely, was abysmal, in fact it was one of the many reasons I haven’t had an installment in a while. I usually like to keep things upbeat, write about films and books that I really like, I felt it unfair to kick Zombie when he was down, the internet had enough bile in it already.

That’s the bad news, the good news is that less than a month after that train wreck comes Rob Zombie Presents: The Haunted World of El Superbeasto a straight to video, adults-only animated feature film. Fans may remember Zombie hawking this as his next project right after the release of Rejects in 2006, well it seems to have had quite a bumpy road to release but here it is.

I wasn’t expecting a lot, the words “straight to video” never inspire much confidence, but as a throw back to a genre that never really got off the ground (the “adult” cartoon ala Fritz the Cat, Heavy Metal, etc.) Superbeasto could not work better. I’ve heard the words “juvenile”, “filthy” and “dumb” thrown around about this film, and that is a very accurate way to describe it, but I wouldn’t use them in a negative way.

The plot is threadbare, but this ain’t Shakespeare: El Superbeasto is a has-been Luchador/superhero whose life revolves around strip clubs and the hot wings found in strip clubs, he is forced to do some actual hero work when the villainous Dr.Satan kidnaps the “stripper of his dreams” in order to gain the powers of hell. On his adventure he teams up with his secret agent sister Suzi X ( voiced by Sheri Moon Zombie) and her lovesick robot ( comedian Brain Posehn). All this is set among some of the grossest, most offensive and funniest animation in years.

The reason I like Superbeasto so much is because it is the perfect venue for Zombie to fully indulge in the creative quirks that gently annoy some people and infuriate others. His penchant for including over-written dialogue, endless genre cameos and oodles of popculture refrences and namechecking are the things that made Halloween 2 such a chore to sit through, but in Beasto’s cartoon world they seem right at home. Some of the film’s biggest laughs come from sight gags that only genre fans will get (i.e. Dr. Phibes playing the organ at a wedding, Varla from Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! sharing a beer with Otis from Rejects, etc.).

Far and away the best part of Superbeasto is its outstanding cast of voice actors, the imdb reads like a laundry list of genre stars, and even though quite a few of them only get a line or two, it’s admirable that Zombie went through the trouble of tracking these people down. Aside from the genre stars the cast also includes Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti chewing some serious cartoon scenery as Dr. Satan and geek it-girl Rosario Dawson doing a hilariously un-PC voice for the stripper-in-peril Velvet Von Black.

The animation is smooth and polished-looking. The whole affair has a very Sponge Bob meets Tex Avery look (especially the scene in which we are introduced to Velvet, which plays like an X-rated version of Avery’s classic “Red Hot Riding Hood” ). The film even has a few musical numbers (with music provided by Hard ‘n Phirm) and some of these prove to be truly standout moments (a profane riff on a School House Rock segment comes to mind).

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto has all the subtlety of a freight train coupled with the intelligence and maturity of a 13 year old boy who has skipped one too many doses of Ritalin, if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, stay far away, but if you like your cartoons lewd, crude and blood splattered pick this up pronto!

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