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Ben Nagy reviews ‘Voodoo Apocalypse’: Uneasy Partner Cops Face Zombies in 1979 El Lay (kinda)

"Voodoo Apocalypse," despite echoing some titles of Italian gut-munchers, is actually a comedic Spanish homage to 1970s cop flicks with some kung-fu, voodoo-fueled zombies and rock music thrown in.

This low-budget Spanish flick wears its cop-show influences on its somewhat bloody sleeve

Hey everybody – I decided to sneak in a review here right before the big event happening July 15-18 out at the Mahoning Valley Drive-In in Lehighton, Pa. There’ll be a Very Special Edition of the Last Call Blog devoted to the goings-on at Mutant Fest, the Last Drive-In Live and the Haunted Drive-In events coming your way, rain or shine, after the Jamboree, so stay tuned for that. I’ll only be driving like six hours from Cleveburg, Ohio, to attend — on social media, but there are other fellow Mutants who are traveling much, much farther — and I hope I can see some of my fellow Mutants there.

In the interim, I wanted to flex my review muscles this once before I get back on a weekly schedule here at the Screening Room in the coming weeks. Here’s hoping I don’t tear a hamstring and can remember how to write reviews. I haven’t forgotten how to watch a movie, since I was helping out with the Mutant Fest judging (some of you out there are SICK – and I mean that as a compliment). And I haven’t forgotten how to write, since I was blogging a bunch of words about Season Three-o that some of you might have checked out.

But it has been since way before the Season Three-o premiere since I’ve done a Screening Room review and there’s been a flick sitting on the shelf that I’ve wanted to get to after I snagged it at a Sam Walton Goliath Mart a while back. (As an aside, if there any flicks you want me to check out, either send an email through the Contact form on the site or you can hit me up directly at nagybj@gmail.com.)

So this week’s flick is Voodoo Apocalypse. It’s different than Cannibal Apocalypse and Zombie Apocalypse and Zombie Holocaust and Texas Voodoo Zombies (which has apocalypse in the tagline) since it’s newer and it’s a Spanish production, but it kind of wants to be like those flicks because it has an apocalypse, cannibalism, zombies and was run through a filter that made the movie look like it had scratches and specks on it. Plus there’s some voodoo possession through rock music.

It also has subtitles some of the time and then the dialogue sounds like English spoken like John Turturro playing Jesus Quintana from The Big Lebowski, so if you can’t tolerate those or gratuitous 1970s police procedural tropes, the flick’s going to grate on you.

So White Chocolate (Sergio G. Ramos), a El Lay police inspector who’s “sweet as chocolate and he’s white,” is this guy in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses who goes to this Mexican bar tracking a guy named Charlie “Hurican” Vargas (Jose J. Ramallo), gets served a tequila when he asks for whiskey and then gets in a big bar fight after he and the bartender trade some insults.

Cops (Jose J. Ramallo), left, and White Chocolate (Sergio G. Ramos) throw down with criminal boss Santana and his luchadore lackeys after their spaghetti dinner gets interrupted in Voodoo Apocalypse. (Screenshot by reviewer Ben Nagy)

There’s some decent comedic Kung Fu. White Chocolate gets some bottles broken over his head, does some Open-Soled Sandal Fu and kicks a guy in the gazebos before shooting the bar up with a handgun. After all this and the opening credits with a Mexican rock song playing during the fight, he realizes that Vargas is now a luchadore.

He goes to the match. Vargas has a Nacho Libre mask on and wins an intergender handicap match with the duo of La Familia, which consists of a big woman in a wedding dress who gives birth to a baby doll before the match and a skinny guy in a tuxedo. This annoys Santana, who’s this criminal that Vargas owes some money to who has a crew of burly luchadores as his heavies.

Vargas, we find out, is a homophobic former detective with gastrointestinal issues who left the force. White Chocolate’s there to try to get him to come back to the big city after a five-year absence because a killer singer who was involved in the death of Vargas’ partner has recorded a song that zombifies anyone who hears it.

Vargas initially blows White Chocolate off, but then returns so we can get to the uneasy partnership and pursuit part of the flick.

Papa Voodoo leads a sinister horde of zombies, plays a modified version of a classic Jimi Hendrix song. laughs sinisterly and threatens to take over El Lay in Voodoo Apocalypse. (Screen shot by reviewer Ben Nagy).

There’s also flashbacks, another barfight, and we find out that there’s this killer singer named Jimmy Vanilla who actually has been possessed by a thousand-year-old evil spirit named Papa Voodoo. He’s leading a horde of musical zombies that he resurrected by playing a song that sounds an awful lot like Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” but is different enough so that they can avoid paying royalties and is the creator of the zombifying tape.

There’s a know-it-all priest with a past nicknamed El Pepino who sends the two cops on a quest up the Mountain of Shame and through the Cave of Death for a mystical sword that is the only thing that can stake the voodoo-possessed musician through the heart, but they have to become true Kung Fu masters by training with this master who runs the Fu King Chinese restaurant.

Vargas (Jose J. Ramallo), left, and White Chocolate (Sergio G. Ramos) achieve transcendence after getting the Executioners’ Swords and turn into “Macho Man” Randy Savage impersonators. (Screenshot from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

There’s a training montage, complete with heroic rock soundtrack, shoddy CGI, gratuitous use of vintage stock footage, an overcranked car chase between two sedans that might or might not be stationary. You can tell they were having fun just throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck in making this one.

Best Realization That Violence Isn’t the Answer: When White Chocolate gets into the big opening bar fight, fatally shoots the house drummer, finds out who Charlie Vargas is from a poster hanging on the bar wall and then says “Why didn’t you just say so, man? We could have skipped all this violence, motherf——s.”

Stinkiest Way to Go: With his dying breath, Charlie’s cop partner Johnny White reveals that “Death smells like s—,” but what he didn’t realize was that that Charlie has dropped his gun in a soiled toilet – twice – and he’s being crop-dusted.

Best Way to Push Product: The uncultured Vargas gets taken by a unscrupulous Chinese shopkeeper who sells apple cider as “the best Italian wine” she had available.

Best No-Holds-Barred Moves: Vargas gets squeezed in a sensitive area by a luchadore during a living-room brawl while he bites the luchadore in the same sensitive area.

Vargas, already having bloodied the nose of music producer “Phil Spector,” gets ready to dispense a little more police brutality. (Screenshot by reviewer Ben Nagy)

Best Police Methodology: When trying to track down leads, Vargas headbutts and shakes down a bartender, a drug dealer, a tennis player, a pimp, a jogger and music producer “Phil Spectro” in that order.

Best Way to Decapitate an Undead Music Producer: A hospital tray does the trick.

Best Summation of the Situation: “Zombies. Here in El Lay. F—.” By Lt. Blackman (Jorge Galvan), who kind of looks like Humpty Hump and whose performance channels Richard Ayoade from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

Vasni J. Ramos, the director, Sergio Ramos and Ramallo, his partners in crime who happened to write and star in this one, put together a splendid mash-up of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” video, Rocky, Roadhouse and whatever the heck else they could think of. It never gets boring, but don’t take it too seriously. Don’t expect a Lucio Fulci gore fest (the “apocalypse” of the title is a bunch of people getting zombified in a concert hall) and go with the flow of the funky James Brown-sounding soundtrack.

Here’s hoping the threatened follow-up involving a disco vampire happens, and they get a little bit more cash so that they don’t have to rely on the overly cheesy CGI they had to use in places in this one.

Three and a half stars. (Half-star deduction because no garbonzas).

Voodoo Apocalypse is available to stream on, you guessed it, Vudu. It’s also on Blu-ray and DVD.

Check it out and don’t forget to say hi at Mahoning!

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