So, I caught a private screening of Rob Zombie's "new" film THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO this weekend. Being a huge fan of animation (and naughty cartoons), I was immensely excited to see what someone as warped and wild as Zombie could do with an animated film and virtually no studio interference.
The result, sadly, is one of the worst animated films I've ever seen (and I've seen a LOT). I'll be totally honest. I actually turned the film off after 20 minutes, as I physically couldn't take it any more. Its THAT bad. Its a conglomeration of everything that I thought was "totally sweet" when I was eight years old, yet is so completely unable to find its focus that I don't even know if it would have appealed to me back then. I went into it, ready for the exploits of a masked wrestler who fights crime, and got a masked wrestler who "loves boobies", makes porno films, and occasionally beats people up. I adored the illustrations I'd seen of Dr. Satan - a zoot suit-wearing red devil bent on world domination - until he and his wacky gorilla pal reveal that in order to take over the world, he has to marry and then plow with a girl sporting a 666 tramp stamp birthmark.
Oh yes, and the robot from THE PHANTOM CREEPS now has a super-powered penis.
EL SUPERBEASTO features so many bare cartoon breasts that everyone I was watching it with agreed that the film actually somehow makes boobs boring. Women shake them until they elongate like tentacles, they slap guys around with them, and even inflate and bounce around on them. After a few scenes, I got the impression that Mr. Zombie legitimately has no idea how female anatomy operates - even in a cartoon setting.
The plot (or what I saw of it) feels more like a bunch of FAMILY GUY skits than a film. I'm assuming they all come together at some point, but suffering through another 60 minutes of painfuly unfunny gags just isn't worth it. And to top it off, the animation is really weak, to boot. It looks like early 80s Saturday morning cartoon fare mixed with shoddy flash versions of art pretending to be that of an undoubtedly-pissed off John Kricfalusi. While the Jetsons-like backgrounds are occasionally fun, they tend to overshadowed by everything falling apart in the foreground.
I expected something a bit closer to a comedic DEVIL'S REJECTS - an absolutely brilliant project that Zombie was allowed to create without too much studio interference. I know EL SUPERBEASTO is a cartoon, but I still wanted a fun plot and engrossing characters - not a jive-talking kitten who is all about the poontang.
And for the love of Dr. Satan, where is the excessive exploitation of animation I was expecting? The film continually takes you up the hill, but never to the edge 'o the cliff - and certainly never over it. I grew up with FRITZ THE CAT, SHAME OF THE JUNGLE, COONSKIN, and THE LEGEND OF THE OVERFIEND. I know what filth cartoons are capable of. Thrill me.
As one friend and critic put it, "Its trying so hard to be edgy, but just isn't doing it. Its like a 'worst of COOL WORLD' montage." Where's the full nudity (we only get boobs and butts) and ultra gore? Does it show up later? If anyone else has sat through it, please tell me it does. I won't revisit the flick, but I'd just like to know if there's ANY payoff.
All-in-all, it was a MASSIVE (and very sad) letdown. I wanted nothing more than to love the Hell out of this film. I really, genuinely like Rob Zombie as a person, and he's in my top five people I'd love to sit down and have a beer with. He has a truly unabashed love for horror films... I just wish he'd quit un-learning how to make movies. He seems like such an absolutely amazing person. Like Uwe Boll (seriously), I'm constantly rooting for him.
On the flipside of that coin, I also caught Dave Parker's THE HILLS RUN RED, which is an immensely entertaining ode to 70s and 80s horror from Dark Castle's new direct-to-DVD branch. While some might complain it suffers from some BLAIR WITCH 2 storytelling techniques, I liked BLAIR WITCH 2, so you can eat it.
Also, the gore feels like it could have been amped up a touch more, as the majority of gaping wounds end up far less gaping than I prefer... but the hills still run mighty red throughout. As long as I've got a few arterial sprays, I can't complain too much.
Honestly, what makes the film so wonderful is the absolutely stunning villain, Babyface. I was literally transfixed on him every time he stepped on screen. He has substantially more potential than any recent screen baddie to become truly iconic, based on looks alone. I can't gush enough over the complexity of his design, and (SLIGHT SPOILER) when he finally speaks, his singular, emotionless line had the entire room in stitches. Its fantastic.
While Warner is marketing HILLS as a slasher, its actually much more - and anyone who is looking for a groovy pastiche of early modern horror should have a hell of a time with it. I highly recommend picking it up. Plus, Dave's just an awesome guy. Much like Rob Zombie, I'm always rooting for him... and I was very happy to see that he delivered.
Now if someone would just get off of their lazy ass and finance Ralph Bakshi's THE LAST DAYS OF CONEY ISLAND, maybe I could get another quality grown-up cartoon.