Bender becomes the undead… unrobot… unmechanical? Whatever, he’s a were-car.
Bender’s (John DiMaggio) uncle Vladimir (David Herman) dies and leaves him his castle in the robot country of Thermostadt. It turns out that the castle is haunted by Robot Ghosts, which, it turns out, are real. The Professor (Billy West) determines that the ghosts are hologram projections from the castle’s ethernet connected to the deceased robots. He tries to explain this to Bender, but Bender has run onto the moors where he gets hit by a car.
After Bender gets back to New New York, he starts to have nightmares about the car and wakes up in an impound lot. He consults the Robot Gypsy (Tress MacNeille) who tells him he is a Were-Car, who will turn into a car each night and run people down, eventually his best friend, Fry (West). He must kill the original Were-Car to get rid of the curse. Bender, Fry, and Leela (Katey Sagal) try to keep Bender from transforming and fail, but Bender attacks Leela instead of Fry, angering the latter.
After Bender returns to normal, the trio track down a series of were-cars to find the original, eventually discovering that one of them is Calculon (Maurice LaMarche), the acting robot. It turns out that the original Were-Car is Project Satan (Herman), an evil car made of the most evil parts imaginable. The three go to fight Project Satan, but Bender also transforms and attacks Fry, making Fry happy. Leela manages to get Project Satan to drive into a furnace, causing it to die and upload the anti-curse code. Bender is back to normal, but he tries to kill Fry again when Fry takes his last beer.
Futurama’s take on the monster movie is just as original as you would think. This episode combines multiple traditional horror elements: The haunted house, the werewolf story, the possessed car, and the Frankenstein story (Project Satan’s origin). The key is that, rather than have any actual supernatural elements, the story comes up with science-fiction elements to replace them, but each of the replacements is even more ludicrous than the originals would be. Rather than “ghosts exist,” the Professor comes up with a technobabble explanation so ludicrous, that he follows it with “Yes, that sequence of words I said made perfect sense.” Rather than Bender just being cursed, the Gypsy explains it as a Virus beamed to Bender’s operating system through demonic headlights. It’s so perfectly absurd.
Beyond just the horror elements, the episode’s core is about Bender and Fry’s relationship. It’s amusing from our point of view, but it actually does hurt Fry’s feelings when Bender doesn’t attempt to kill him when he first has the chance. This leads Fry to question whether or not Bender is really the dedicated friend that Fry thinks he is. Ultimately, when it turns out Bender actually does consider Fry his best friend, it almost results in Fry’s death.
Horror allusions abound in this episode. The were-car that hit Bender in the beginning is clearly designed to be Christine from Stephen King. Bender’s car form is designed to resemble the Car from the film… The Car, which is about a demonically possessed car that came out years before Christine was published. The blood on the walls that only make sense in the mirror is from The Shining. The line “Mumbo, perhaps. Jumbo, perhaps not” is a reference to the classic Bela Lugosi film The Black Cat.
Overall, I think this is a great episode. It’s one of the best examples of how Futurama can adapt an overused cliche-riddled genre and turn it on its head.
It’s the jokes that are made about Windows 98 throughout the episode. The first one that really gets brought up is the opening sound cue that plays when the ghosts arrive. The second follows that immediately, which is the windows logo and the After Dark toaster chasing Bender. The last is the Gypsy reading “The Curse of the Were-Car for Windows 98,” which she refers to as an “ancient read-me file.”
It’s tough to remember now, but when this episode aired, Windows 98 had just been replaced by Windows ME. Prior to that, everything computer related had been about Windows 98. After the game-changer that was Windows 95, every company that could was excited to put Windows 98 on their software and instructionals. While a lot of people complained about the perceived flaws in it, including South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut having a scene saying that all of the promises were bullsh*t, most of the problems were actually because, as the focus of much of the Tech world at the time, every program was trying to work with it… even ones that shouldn’t. As such, it became one of the first major sources of crashes, malware, and even viruses. So, it makes perfect sense that the episode would equate one of the guides to a magical tome.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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