Buddy cop comedies have always been awesome. Two mismatched cops—one gruff and cynical; the other just graduated the academy at the top of their class, full of optimism—go to war against a gangster who has inevitably killed the older cop’s old partner the day before their retirement. The two cops quip at each other throughout the film, but eventually they begin to admire one another. Between the gunfights and explosions, it’s the story of a male friendship developing. The genre ruled the action scene in the 90s, before it got a little stale. But don’t worry, writers José J. Ramallo, Sergio G. Ramos, and Vasni Ramos threw in a few extra elements to spice up the script of Voodoo Apocalypse — Luchadores giving birth in wrestling rings, Kung Fu training montages, and zombie-turning guitar solos.
The best part of Voodoo Apocalypse is how it adds all of these wild elements without overcomplicating the story. Scrape away all of the aforementioned elements, and it’s the story of two cops hunting down the villain who killed the older one’s partner. The film opens with White Chocolate (played by co-writer Sergio G. Ramos) searching for Charlie Vargas (played by co-writer José J. Ramallo) in a bar in Mexico. He ends up brawling with the patrons as a Mariachi band plays a heavy metal cover of “Cielito Lindo.” When he rises from the wreckage and demands, again, to know where Vargas is, the bartender points to a sign on the wall advertising Vargas’ next match as a Luchador. White Chocolate yells, “We could’ve skipped all this violence, mother f****er.”
He meets Vargas and gives him a picture of the film’s villain Jimmy Vanilla (Victor Hubara). Vargas says he still won’t come back. When White Chocolate relays the message to Chief Blackman (Jorge Galván), the chief tells White Chocolate the story of how Vargas’ partner Johnny (Armando Buika) was killed in a shootout with Jimmy Vanilla while Vargas was pooping. It’s one of the films many homages to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. By the time Chief’s story ends, Vargas is leaning in the door frame, ready to get his revenge on Jimmy Vanilla.
Voodoo Apocalypse is part-send up of/part-love letter to grindhouse films. Its funniest moments come when White Chocolate questions the motives of what they’re doing as they act out tropes. The character, who originated in the series Paul Kersey & White Chocolate Vs the Kung Fu Robotic Mafia, interrogates the logic of Vargas’ action throughout, lampooning the genre. It’s funny, and like most good film satire, it seems to come from a place of love for the genre.
It’s also a rare low-budget film where everything is working in unity. The music — a mix of funky trumpets, guitars, and one extremely well-placed 80s style power ballad — captures the feeling of what the production is doing. Voodoo Apocalypse also has musical themes singing Vargas’ and White Chocolates’ names when they’re introduced, which is a perfect detail, taken straight from the 70s.
The images use something called “Retrofilmation” to make it appear as though it were being projected from a physical film reel that has been played a couple of hundred times before. The lines and skipped frames add to the effect. The way all of the elements come together in Voodoo Apocalypse is especially impressive, considering this is co-writer Vasni Ramos feature-length directorial debut.
The biggest problem is the film takes the homophobic slurs and toxically masculine attitudes that aren’t acceptable in the 2020s from the 70s. White Chocolate tells a number of different male characters to suck his d***, and there are a number of jokes about Vargas’ sexual orientation. It’s all done to question their masculinity (another issue entirely), and it feels especially tired after the FBI reported that “Nearly 1 in 5 hate crimes [was] motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias” in 2019. These attitudes lead to real crimes, and it’s disheartening to see them in an otherwise fun film.
What might be the most frustrating is that outside of those moments, Voodoo Apocalypse is crackling with energy. It wouldn’t have been hard to cut the homophobic jokes or to lampshade them as the film does with almost every other plot point. When Vargas hits on his dead partner’s daughter Claire (Carla Boricó Escribá), White Chocolate repeatedly points out how weird it is. Vargas trying to have sex with Johnny’s daughter is problematic, and White Chocolate calling that fact out makes it feel like the filmmakers are aware of how weird that trope is. They’re mocking it, not embracing it. It feels odd that they don’t use that same trick, which they used so well throughout the film, for one of the most toxic elements of the genre they’re sending-up.
Voodoo Apocalypse leans into the grindhouse instead of trying to subvert it. It would’ve been a great movie if it didn’t take the toxicity along with everything else.
Wicked Rating – 6/10