Would it surprise anyone that I enjoy The Munsters?
While I was watching more of The Addams Family growing up, The Munsters popped up periodically and I ended up watching more of it later on in life and I still enjoy it to this day. The show is a perfect choice for any horror fan as it lovingly poked fun at the classic Universal Monsters with the Munster Family going about their normal day to day lives while everyone thinks otherwise once they meet them. Given the enduring popularity of the original series, it comes as no surprise that it was rebooted a few times over the years. Their was a movie released theatrically called Munsters, Go Home! that came out right after the series ended and had the original cast besides Pat Priest playing Marilyn (which I plan on looking at soon); Their was a sequel series called The Munsters Today that aired in 1988 which was met with some popularity in the UK and ended up lasting three seasons (funny enough, that’s longer than the original); An attempted reboot called Mockingbird Lane happened in 2012 which tried to have a darker, more supernatural tone similar to the show Grimm but that ended doing poorly and it only served as a pilot; Finally, there was three different Made-for-TV movies and an animated short that came out over the years.
After being untouched for a little while, Universal announced last year that they were rebooting the series with a movie and was spear headed by metal musician and director Rob Zombie.
Of course with the announcement and the developments that have been coming along with the production, the fans reactions have been EXTREMELY split down the middle. People either hated it believing it looked cheap and they don’t like Rob Zombie’s previous work or they liked it saying it’s in the spirit of the original series. Given the fact that Zombie is a die hard fan of the series, I decided to have some faith with him in charge and didn’t pass judgement until the day it came out on Netflix. With that day finally come to pass, it’s time to share my thoughts on how Rob Zombie tackled one of the two macabre families of 1960’s TV.
Synopsis: In Transylvania, vampire Lily (Sherri Moon Zombie) lives a somber life with her father the Count (Daniel Roebuck) and his assistant Igor (Sylvester McCoy) and yearns for love after many failed attempts in dating. At the same time, Dr. Henry Wolfgang (Richard Brake) decides to create a human being made out of parts of the recently decided and ends up creating Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips). The two of them eventually cross paths and quickly become head over heels for each other.
As the synopsis and the trailer revealed, the movie is a prequel which covers the creation of Herman, Lily meeting Herman and their romance that leads to their marriage, and the family moving into 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Obviously, that means there’s no sign of Eddie or Marilyn but we do get to see other Munster family members that appeared throughout the series like Uncle Gilbert and Spot (and how features them found him) as well as adding in some events such as Herman having a music career and Lily going on a date with Count Orlok prior to them meeting for the first time. Given that the show sprinkles the Munster history throughout, there are some things that are different like Herman originally being made in Germany alongside his twin brother Charlie and later going to Transylvania. There are some little things like this would end up being a bother if you’re expecting continuity from the show, but giving how this movie is its own unique take on the origins of the series (as well as being set in modern day) it doesn’t end up being too much of a bother for me (plus I think it would be a bit ridiculous trying to debate the history of a sitcom).
One of the more noticeable features in regards to the plot is how its structured. The movie feels like it was a few episodes of a reboot that were stitched together to make a full length movie which felt similar to what Disney use to do with some of their Direct-To-DVD sequels. There was quite a few plot threads that didn’t end up going anywhere like how The Count’s ex lover trying to get his house taken away just drops out of the movie all together towards the final act as well as characters that felt like they would end up as the villain in the movie that disappear later on. Given that this movie almost pushes Two Hours, there’s quite a bit that could have been cut down even though it breezes by fairly quickly and it doesn’t feel like it has that runtime.
Obviously, with how iconic the original actors were in the series, comparing the new ones is basically a given as they were going to have quite a challenge with holding up their legacy and trying to be memorable. Easily, the best out of the three lead actors in the movie is Daniel Roebuck as The Count. He is a perfect embodiment of Al Lewis who’s having a great time in the role and ends up being the actor who you’ll want to see more of whenever he shows up on screen. Jeff Daniel Phillips as Herman is a bit of a mixed bag. He definitely had the physical humor of Herman nailed and did a good job replicating Fred Gwynne’s laugh, he didn’t have too much of Herman’s goofy innocence to him that made him likable. He has his moments here and there, but not the most noteworthy of the trio. For Lily, she ended up being a bit of a one note character that didn’t do too much in the movie. Although, she did get some laughs throughout the movie so she wasn’t completely forgettable though she doesn’t stand out when compared to Yvonne De Carlo.
One of the bigger complaints of the movie when the trailer dropped was the production value. Many people believed it looked pretty cheap and that it would end up on par with an Asylum movie. I tend to disagree with those statements. Given the campy nature of the show, the budget being on the cheaper isn’t too far fetched from it and I liked a lot of the sets which looked perfectly fitting for it. While I was generally okay with it being in color, a lot of people (Zombie included) would have preferred it to be in Black and White instead. Unfortunately though, Universal wanted it in color so we ended up with it being in color (though I hope the DVD release has a Black and White option available at least).
Seeing as how Zombie decided wanted to stay faithful to the family friendly and campy style of the original series, it ends up no exception for the film’s humor. Much like the show, the movie uses a mix of corny macabre jokes told throughout the movie, Herman’s dim-witted nature, and shocked reactions of everyone considered normal meeting the Munsters for the first time to provide the humor. All I can really say is that it ended up being a mixed bag at times. Some of the jokes work and made me laugh while some of them didn’t land too well. Not too mention the actors camping it up throughout the movie can definitely help add some laughs throughout it.
Overall though, I thought it wasn’t bad. It’s definitely a flawed movie with quite a few things that could be fixed, but I think it worked out as a family friendly Halloween film and as a tribute to the Munsters. It was pretty obvious to see throughout that Rob Zombie does love the franchise and did put some of it into making this movie, regardless of flaws. I know it’s generally a mixed bag when it comes to Rob Zombie’s movies (generally it’s you either like them or you don’t), but I think this is one that people would probably go see if they don’t want to dive into his usual hard R-rated flare. I think it would make a good combo with something like Hocus Pocus, Goosebumps, or The House With A Clock In Its Walls.