REVIEW: ‘The Munsters’ Is A Monster Mash Of Reverence & Modernity

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The Munsters - But Why Tho

Reboots, prequels, and sequels are the du jour of Hollywood. Therefore, it was only a matter of time until The Munsters received the big screen treatment. Rob Zombie writes and directs a prequel film that takes place before the events of the TV series, showing how Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips) met his wife Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie). None of this sits well with Lily’s father the Count (Daniel Roebuck), especially when Herman is tricked into selling their manor by Lily’s conniving werewolf brother Lester (Tomas Boykin).

This isn’t the first time Zombie has put his own spin on a well-known film/TV series. But what makes this go around different is how he approaches the source material. He’s clearly a fan of The Munsters, having his actors mimic the mannerisms and cadences of their predecessors. And it’s peppered with references to the original series, including an ending sequence that’s a shot-for-shot replica of the original series opening. The Munsters also marks a stark departure from Zombie’s previous films; gone is the usual gore and shock value, replaced by corny jokes and sight gags that wouldn’t feel out of place in the original series.

And to Zombie’s credit that works. When rebooting a series, the best thing you can do is stay true to the spirit of the source material. Whether it’s classic cartoon characters or slasher icons, if a creator can tap into what made the original special then they’ve succeeded. And for Zombie, he understands that at its core The Munsters is a silly sitcom that just happens to feature its own takes on classic monsters. However, there’s also the matter of appealing to new audiences – particularly those who never grew up with the Munsters. And that’s where the film falls a little bit flat. Most people unfamiliar with the original series might find themselves lost, or at best confused about what the appeal of the film is.

This leads to the film’s production design, which is another double-edged sword of sorts. Zombie originally intended to shoot it in black and white in homage to the original show, but the end result is in garish, eye-popping colors that feel less like a creative choice and more like an assault on the senses. And Zombie feels the need to randomly pepper the film with television sets that are playing random scenes from Universal monster movies.

Universal did distribute the movie, and The Munsters is a homage to most of those monsters but there’s a difference between a clever homage and brutally beating your audience over the head with your inspirations. And Zombie crosses it more than once. Perhaps one of the most groan-inducing moments comes early in the film when Lily goes on a blind date with Count Orlock. Rather than laughing, I thought “man I could be watching Nosferatu right now.”

What makes the film stand out is its cast, particularly Phillips and Roebuck. The two provide most of the laughs in the film, as Phillips plays Herman like the big geek he is and Roebuck almost always has a cutting insult to direct at him. Case in point: when Herman says “I’ve been thinking…” the Count groans, “No more of that!” Another delightful duo that carries the film is Richard Brake as the mad scientist Dr. Wolfgang and Jorge Garcia as his dimwitted assistant Floop, as their conflicting ideas lead to the birth of Herman. But the standout is definitely Cassandra Peterson as an unwitting realtor who sells the Munsters their classic house on Mockingbird Lane. You read that right: Elvira is in this movie.

The Munsters hews fairly close to the spirit of the show it’s inspired by, but more than likely will only appeal to die hard fans. Though I’m not one of those fans, I think the movie is perfectly fine. And who knows, maybe it’ll convince viewers old and new to revisit the original series.

The Munsters is available to stream on Netflix.


The Munsters
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

The Munsters hews fairly close to the spirit of the show it’s inspired by, but more than likely will only appeal to die hard fans. Though I’m not one of those fans, I think the movie is perfectly fine. And who knows, maybe it’ll convince viewers old and new to revisit the original series.

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