OCTOBER 12, 2009
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)
It’s been four years since I’ve been able to say “Hey, Rob Zombie made a good movie!”, but that is precisely my (surprised) reaction to The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto, which is sort of like the animated version of one of those Hong Kong movies they show at the Bev every now and then, jamming multiple genres and tones together into one sort of cohesive narrative. And adding songs.
However, how much of the film’s success should be credited to Zombie remains a mystery. He is credited as the director at the top of the film, but the end credits list several “sequence directors” and “animation directors” and such. His script is co-credited with Tom Papa (who plays the title character), and several other writers are also listed (again, during the end credits). And the best thing about the movie are the songs, and those were all written by Chris Hardwick and Mike Phirman.
I can’t believe Hardwick isn’t a bigger star. Not only did he steal H2 away from everyone else, but his work here is nothing short of brilliant. Each song has a different genre - we get surf rock, country, mariachi, scat, Beatles-esque pop, jazzy lounge stuff... you name it, it’s here. And they are goddamn HILARIOUS. My favorite is the track that plays over a car chase between Suzi X (Sheri Moon Zombie, of course) and a bunch of Nazi zombies. Like those “literal video” versions of songs you see on Youtube, the song’s lyrics merely describe what’s on screen. “She throws a thing it blows up but a bunch get through why does a zombie need a scarf” Hardwick sings, over a sequence where Suzi throws a thing that explodes, taking out some but not all of the zombies, one of whom is wearing a scarf. And a later song, over a nude catfight between Suzi and Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson) tells you that it’s OK to jerk off to animation, since that’s what Japanese people do all the time.
As for the non-song parts of the movie, it’s OK. It moves along so swiftly and so irreverently that it’s hard to get bored or anything, but by the same token, it’s so damn scattershot that I often felt like I was watching something based on a script that was made up by a drunken improv group at a Fangoria convention. It’s also strangely non-violent; most confrontations end in a single smack to the head or whatever. Zombie and his crew went all out with the nudity and language, why not the violence?
Horror fans should definitely appreciate all of the homages and references that occur during the film’s 73 minutes. Some are pretty obvious (Michael Myers tries to walk across the street, and gets run over), others a bit more subtle; I wonder how many will miss the Dr. Phibes gag entirely. The best is a Carrie “ripoff” that comes near the end. Not only does it have one of the better songs (another “sing along to what’s happening on-screen” song, complaining that they didn’t ask King or DePalma if this was OK with them), but it’s also one of the few full blown horror scenes in the entire movie. For a movie with “haunted world” in the title, it’s surprisingly horror-lite.
Not sure about the standard def, but the Blu-ray has a nice collection of deleted/alternate material. There are 5 minutes’ worth of deleted scenes (mostly shots) that are usually placed without any context, but it’s nice to see completed animation in the bonus section; usually all we get is animatics and storyboards. In fact, the collection of “alternate scenes” are largely unfinished, and as the title suggests, are usually just a different version of an existing scene (not a surprise that one whole scene’s context can be changed without really altering anything else in the narrative, considering how slap-dash it is). The biggest and most interesting supplement is the entire movie presented in various stages of completion. Pencil outlines, wireframes, animatics, storyboards, near-completed animation... it’s all here. You probably won’t get through the entire thing, but it’s interesting to see how many stages there are from initial design to final animation. And it’s the closest you’ll get to information on the film’s production, since there are no making of features whatsoever, nor are there interviews or commentary with any of the cast or crew. I would have liked to have seen at least SOMETHING about the film’s production (or its long post-production process - Rob began work on this before his first Halloween), but the deleted material almost makes up for it. I also wish they had provided a “jump to a song” type feature that most musical DVDs do (or better, simply released a soundtrack album). On the plus side, they HAVE provided uncompressed PCM audio, which I am noticing is becoming rare as Blu-ray becomes more popular.
So it’s hardly the best movie in the world, but it’s got a kooky charm that kept me entertained, and I laughed out loud several times. But given the amount of co-creators, it just sort of proves that Zombie can produce better material when he allows others to contribute instead of doing everything himself.
What say you?