Rob Zombie’s ‘The Munsters’ Holds Childish Appeal

The Munsters first sprang to life in 1964 as a CBS television sitcom. Giving the macabre a comedic flair, the show featured Universal Studios-type monsters living in everyday American suburbia.

The fish out of water creatures included a Frankenstein-like monster (Herman Munster) married to a vampire wife (Lilly Munster), living in a scary mansion on Mockingbird Lane in the fictional suburb of Mockingbird Heights. They share their home and misadventures with Herman and Lily’s werewolf son Eddie, niece Marilyn, and Lilly’s Transylvania Count father (Grandpa).

The show quickly found an adoring audience. The Munsters provided just the right amount of satire mixed with a respect for the monster movies the show parodies. In fact, in 1965 the program was nominated for Best Television Series in the Golden Globe Awards. However, after the premier of ABC’s Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, The Munsters took a ratings dive. The series was canceled in 1966 after 70 episodes.

The original series starred Fred Gwynne as the patriarch of the unconventional Munsters family, with Yvonne De Carlo as his wife Lily, Al Lewis as Grandpa, Butch Patrick as Eddie, and Beverley Owen (and later Pat Priest) as Marilyn.

There have been several attempts to revisit or reboot the classic series over the years. None have met with much success.

The most recent effort to bring a fresh interpretation to the story comes from writer-director Rob Zombie. Zombie’s vision for The Munsters is now available on Netflix.

One’s initial thought might be that Zombie is an odd choice to helm a Munsters reboot. Zombie is most well known as a heavy metal musician – first with the band White Zombie and then as a solo artist.

Of course, Zombie has parlayed his success with horror and sci-fi themed industrial metal songs into work as a horror film director. His films include House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween (reboot), and Halloween II. Many of his films have cult followings.

You’d think with his resume in horror and goth, Zombie would be inclined to create a dark and gloomy version of The Munsters characters for Netflix. However, you’d be surprised that his vision is goofball comedy aimed at children. Since fans of The Munsters tend to be adults who enjoyed the original series in syndication over the years, creating a story clearly geared to 6–12-year-olds seems a puzzling choice.

For this film, the script Zombie has written is most reminiscent of a hokey, low-budget Saturday morning TV show full of painfully bad jokes left over from kindergarten, with characters mugging shamelessly for the camera.

In fact, the Rob Zombie version of The Munsters has far more in common with the 2004 Nickelodeon Nick Jr. series LazyTown than the original 1960’s Munsters television series. Aiming the movie at children doesn’t seem to be taking advantage of Zombie’s existing fan following. Sure, it may be admirable to try to appeal to a new audience, but that doesn’t make it a wise choice.

Cinematically, Zombie’s movie is actually very well-done. Zombie has an eye for how to visually structure camera shots in an interesting and inventive way. But that doesn’t save this film from a script that never really finds its footing.

This reboot is an origins story, offering a tale about how Herman and Lilly met and married in Transylvania. It takes us through their migration across the pond to California. Origin stories can often be entertaining.

The film stars Jeff Daniel Phillips as Herman Munster, Sheri Moon Zombie as Lily, and Daniel James Roebuck as Lily’s father (not yet a Grandpa in this story). Phillips is most well known as the caveman in GEICO commercials. Sheri Moon Zombie is most well known for being married to Rob Zombie.

Zombie has apparently directed his actors to ham it up as much as humanly possible, which fits the childish jokes and situations. It is, however, not that entertaining.

Yet while the film is not that entertaining, it is somewhat hypnotic. It’s a trainwreck you just can’t take eyes off of. You’ll ask yourself (repeatedly) “Can it really continue to be this bad?”

And the answer? I’ll leave that for you to decide, should you wish to watch this latest Rob Zombie creation. But I can tell you, I think I lost brain cells sitting through it.

Is it the worst movie ever? No. It’s just not good.

Peace. Love. Trust.

Rikki Lee Travolta

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One comment

  1. We don’t get NETFLIX…and I loved the original Munsters when I was growing up so maybe it’s a good thing…

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