The Munsters


Whenever a filmmaker tackles a favorite property from their personal life, they’ll more often than not find themselves walking a tightrope thinner than a pube hair. In some cases you get something like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and get a perfect melding of director and source material that leaks love and fanboy enthusiasm out of every pore – and then sometimes you get The Munsters.
Rob Zombie’s been on a similar path before when he was tasked with rebooting his beloved Halloween to a devisive reception  back in 2007 (A Halloween movie that split audiences? Say it isn’t so!), but his attempt to resurrect the Addams Family bothering unit living in 1313 Mockingbird Lane is a curious shift in direction even for him as he steps away from his impossibly gritty horrors and rampant serial killer worship to focus on something a little more wholesome. The good news is that this Munsters redux is a colourful projectile of 60’s kitch that admittedly hits the target Zombie was aiming for – the bad news is that to actually enjoy it you’d probably have to be Zombie himself…


Lily is a lovelorn, 150 year old vampire who simply can’t find the “one” much to the frustration of her father, the Count, who also has issues with his no-good, werewolf son Lester, who has been entranced by the Count’s bitter, gypsy, ex-wife to try and hoodwink the family fortune out from under him. After a date with the toothy Count Orlock proves to be a bust, Lily has all but given up on finding “monster right” until she flicks on the tube one day and sees – Herman.
Herman, is the result of some wacky, Colin Clive style experiments performed by pretentious scientific lunatic, Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang, that was supposed to produce a new body for one of the smartest minds that’s ever existed, but after a predictable, brain-snafu by hunchbacked assistant Floop, the brain used actually belongs to mugging stand up comedian Shecky Von Rathbone, Herman’s makeshift body is revived only to be a showbiz obsessed goof. Much to the Count’s disdain, Lily immediately falls for the big lug and goes to watch him as he tours with his new punk band and the two end up becoming utterly smitten with each other and after a mere week of dating, the two are due to be wed.
As the story clomps on with all the grace of the notorious unsteady Herman trying to tap dance in snow shoes, all the random subplots slowly converge with the urgency of a sedated sloth to eventually manipulate this misshapen new family to move to Hollywood so Herman can continue to seek fame and fortune while his wife supports and his father-in-law snorts.


In a time when most modern reboots of classic shows choose to adapt the source material into something decidedly more up to date, Rob Zombie has chosen to remain faithful to the camp stylings of the original 60’s show right down to the lame jokes and groan inducing plots – its obvious right from the get-go that the director has an enormous affinity for The Munsters, but the problem is that in the red most of his obvious and shameless fanboying, he’s actually forgotten to make a watchable movie.
Refusing to update the comedy or even the style it’s delivered in means that the horror auteur has curiously delivered a comedy that’s intentionally not funny unless you’re just as much an aficionado of a 60 year old TV as he is. It’s a baffling choice as the result is an admittedly handsome-looking revival that ends up ultimately being as fun to watch as a clown slowly overdosing on heroin. Maybe I’m missing the joke here, but if I am, so are the cast who embrace their characters fully, but seemingly at the cost of any and all comic timing leaving virtually every joke to furiously crash and burn more than a narcoleptic stunt pilot. While it’s weird enough that the main cast of his kids film all have the questionable distinction of all being employees of the Rabbit In Red strip club from Zombie’s two Halloween movies, the tone forces them to ditch all attempts at creating a legitimate, comedic performance in favour of maintaining a decent impersonation while mugging like their life depended on it. Of the three leads, Daniel Roebuck channels original Grampa Munster Al Lewis pretty impressively while Jeff Daniel Phillips wisely avoids going full Fred Gwynne only choosing to keep the laugh as an aproximation of the clumsy Herman. Rounding out the trio (there’s no Eddie or Marilyn here – possibly holdouts for *shudder* a sequel) is the queen of nepotism herself, Sherrie Moon Zombie; however, while I’m willing to give credit where credit is due and admit she does a passable Yvonne De Carlo, the very fact that the director has dressed his wife as a character he probably carried a torch for for decades makes the whole thing feel uncomfortably like couples roleplay…


Elsewhere, Zombie regular Richard Brake snaps up a couple of duel roles and we get a cameo from Elvira herself, Cassandra Peterson whose realtor weirdly spends most of the film buried under thick, witchy-poo, halloween makeup.
If the performances are slave to the camp nature of the original series, the filmmaking is all but obliterated by it, with Zombie simply aiming a camera at his stars with no composition or style whatsoever and if you didn’t know better, you’d swear blind that, in an effort to save time and money, Zombie seemingly seems to have recorded the dress rehersals and used that instead. Also the plot seems to trying to emulate the episodic nature of the show by having literally a half dozen plots unfold one after the other, but the rapid succession of stories – from the creation of Herman, to him meeting Lily, to their courting, to a brief holiday in Paris, to Lester making a play for the family fortune, the move to America – leaves you confused as to what the movie is actually about andoften leaves you in that agitated sweet spot between irritated, bored and confused. Who the fuck is this movie for?
So are there any good points about the movie at all? Well the costumes and sets are all reliably on point even if the overall experience is flatter than the top of Herman’s noggin, but it means nothing when the final film is as enthralling as watching water evaporate.


You could accuse me of being a spoil sport and a meanie, but compare this to either one of Barry Sonnenfeld’s vastly smarter Addams Family movies or even the cartoonish wit of the TV version of What We Do In The Shadows, surely a modern masterclass on how to present moronic monsters in a way that’s subversive and genuinely funny instead of whatever tax write off Rob Zombie inadvertently seems to have found himself directing.
Loud, stupid and annoying in a way that’ll even probably piss of kids, this new incarnation of the Munsters needs some pitchfork and torch wielding villages to send them on their way.


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