Musician turned film director Rob Zombie has polarized horror fans like few before him, crafting two original tales ('House of 1000 Corpses' and 'The Devils Rejects') that were greeted with mixed reactions, and two horror remakes ('Halloween' and 'Halloween II') that have made most classic horror fans cry foul. Zombie's only other direction was the mock 'Werewolf Women of the SS' trailer found in the original 'Grindhouse' double feature, a theme briefly hinted at in the next Zombie feature, a take on the classic underground comic/cartoon scene in 'The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.'
El Superbeasto (voiced by Tom Papa) is the opposite of a no-nonsense former wrestler turned action/porn star. He's all nonsense. Easily distracted by a large pitcher of beer or equally large pair of breasts, even if they belong to his sister Suzi X (Sheri Moon Zombie), the overgrown luchador has a penchant for selfish actions unbecoming of a hero. When the evil Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti) conspires to acquire all the sudsy powers of hell through an unholy marriage to stripper Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson), El Superbeast and Suzi X must save the world by fending off a Nazi zombie army and countless vile monsters.
Have you ever sat down to a 'Fritz the Cat' animated feature? What about Robert Crumb, ever read any of his comics? If you have, you know exactly what you're getting into. With this movie, more modern audiences, particularly young Zombie fans, will probably be introduced to this borderline pornographic and excessively exploitative form of comedy for the first time.
As a 'Fritz' fan, and a former reader of the underground comic scene, I can't praise 'The Haunted World of El Superbeasto' enough. Every sort of disgusting, crude, rude, grotesque, and utterly vile joke under the sun is housed in about 77 minutes worth of screen time, including (but not limited to): hints of an incestuous relationship, inter-species erotica, theme songs that describe every bit of action on screen, sexual robots, constant masturbatory references, extreme violence including arterial sprays, and a barrage of twisted pop culture references, including characters from Zombie's filmography (Otis Driftwood, Captain Spaulding, and a certain masked murderer).
In other words, this isn't for the faint of heart, easily offended, or those of strong moral fabric. Nearly every line uttered by Dawson's Von Black has an obscenity or three rolled in, while Suzi X and her robotic companion Murray (Brian Posehn) are constantly unleashing scenes with graphic nudity and sexual reference. Suzi X also has a way with words, much like Von Black, rolling off barrages of synonyms for vagina, complete with subtitles for each slang term for emphasis. Her life revolves around her body and her sexuality, on top of her ability to kick serious ass, much like a nymphomaniac Wonder Woman.
The jokes run at at a rapid pace, from opening to close, from a quick jab at USA outsourcing, to a more adult, chain smoking take on Hansel and Gretel, and a fun juxtaposition of sensibilities between woman and ape. I'm all for Superbeasto's idea of romance, with the idea of flowers and a beer hat being a proper way to seduce a lady. I can't argue with his choice in killing SS Werewolves, by means of sex toys in the form of a crucifix, or Suzi's homage to Dwight of 'Sin City' in the dispatching of Hitler's preserved head.
For all the love I am giving 'The Haunted World of El Superbeasto' and its sensibilities of old, I obviously cannot recommend this film for everyone. Zombie fans will get a kick out of the dark, dark humor, and the references and hints to his previous films, and counterculture fans will eat the images and themes up like a box of Twinkies, comedy fans in general may find this film to be a one and done bit of shock-sploitation, humor that is funny due to how random it is on first viewing, that may grow incredibly stale on repeat viewings. And horny teenagers? Well, to quote the film, "it's alright to jerk off to cartoons, the Japanese do it every day."
'The Haunted World of El Superbeasto' is never, ever going to look as polished and precise as the high budget animated masterpieces of past and present. In fact, the cheap/rough aesthetic doesn't lend itself very well to high definition. The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode (presented at 1.78:1) does the best it can with what it's given.
Colors are super bright, varied, and for the most part free from problems when they're in the forefront of the picture. Backgrounds aren't so lucky, as some obvious banding issues pop up, as do some ridiculously macroblocked images, obviously zoomed from smaller pictures with no regard to proportion. Imagine taking a 200x200 image file, and enlarging it to 450x450...that's how backgrounds look from time to time.
There's a bit of aliasing present in the dark black outline that surrounds Superbeasto, and the lines on every character are far from straight and even, growing ghastly with zoomed in shots. While I didn't have any real problems with motion blurring or dull colors, I did find far too many PPM (problems per minute) with this release. While the film may not have been made in the same fashion as the animations that get high scores around these parts, and intent is always key, giving this transfer a high grade due to the source would be incredibly misleading.
Since the video didn't impress me all that much, I'm glad to say there's reason to buy this Blu-ray release of 'El Superbeasto:' the rocking, rocking audio set down by Hard 'n Phirm, presented with an uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 mix (that has to be selected through the menu, as the disc defaults to a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track).
Dialogue is clear and prioritized, though it can get a bit annoying due to how over enthusiastic Moon-Zombie plays her role. The soundtrack starts out with a wonderful replication of the classic cartoon theme sounds, like the super tinned and muffled trumpets, before laying down into more modern tracks. Bass is an absolute monster in the theme song, and doesn't drown out the other portions of the track, but is rarely utilized in the film, despite countless opportunities for a bit of a rumble. Dynamic range is greatly utilized with some great sounding high end sounds. Surround use could have been better, and more active, but I did get a kick out of how seamless the few moments of extreme motion (Beasto's car or the Nazi helicopter) sounded. While this is a solid, impressive track, one can't help but wonder if it could have been just a bit stronger and more active, as there was a lack of real involvement in the room at times.
After Rob Zombie's 'Halloween' received a ridiculously loaded Blu-ray in terms of extras, I probably set myself up for disaster with this release, as only the bare minimum is included. No audio commentary (which would have been grand), no interviews or behind the scenes with the voice actors, and no clips with Zombie discussing his inspirations and aspirations for the film.
'The Haunted World of Superbeasto' isn't for everyone, but it sure as hell is for me. This Blu-ray doesn't do wonders for the material, with middle of the road audio and video, and a skimped out supplements package that could have been truly special, which doesn't help the cause here. I'd suggest anyone rent or borrow this film before buying it, as it's more likely to take up shelf space than it is to constantly find its way into players, even if I find the film to be a real masterpiece.