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The Munsters (Blu-Ray) Review

September 27, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
The Munsters Image Credit: Universal 1440 Entertainment
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The Munsters (Blu-Ray) Review  

Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie

Jeff Daniel Phillips – Herman Munster
Sheri Moon Zombie – Lily
Daniel Roebuck – The Count
Richard Brake – Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang / Orlock
Sylvester McCoy – Igor
Jorge Garcia – Floop
Tomas Boykin – Lester
Catherine Schell – Zoya Krupp
Cassandra Peterson – Barbara Carr
Laurent Winkler – Shelly Von Rathbone
Dee Wallace – Good Morning Transylvania Announcer

Image Credit: Universal 1440 Entertainment

Running Time: 109 minutes
Rated PG for macabre and suggestive material, scary images, and language.

Rob Zombie is one of the most polarizing filmmakers working. The rock star-turned-movie maker has his share of devoted fans who enjoy his often-depraved trips like The Devil’s Rejects, The Lords of Salem and 31, but also a legion of people who just aren’t down with his aesthetic. I would argue that his take on Halloween is the most divisive horror remake of all-time, and that Zombie himself is probably pretty happy with that notion.

With all that said, it stands to reason that people were always going to approach his plans make a Munsters movie with curiosity and more than a little trepidation. The 1960s monster sitcom is a hallmark of nostalgia for many peoples’ childhoods. The idea of the man who never met a white trash serial killer he didn’t like taking on Herman, Lily, and Grandpa Munster was naturally going to cause some alarm, even if (or perhaps especially because) it has long been a passion project for him.

Now that the film has arrived on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital (as well as streaming on Netflix), it’s fair to say that the movie won’t be changing too many minds. But that’s not to say that it’s a bad film. Rather, The Munsters is Zombie’s love letter to the franchise that had a huge impact on him, and his first foray into a family film – for all that entails.

With The Munsters, Zombie creates an origin story for the goofy family that many of us grew up with thanks to syndication. That means that, for much of the film, we’re not getting 1313 Mockingbird Lane (though it does show up eventually). Instead, we start off in Transylvania where Grandpa (Daniel Roebuck) – not yet a Grandpa and thus known as The Count – is living with his daughter Lily (Shari Moon Zombie). Lily is looking for love and not finding it, despite The Count’s attempts to set her up with people he thinks are good matches.

Meanwhile, Dr. Wolfgang (Richard Brake) and his assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia) are in the process of creating life through re-animation. Their plans go somewhat awry due to a mistake from Floop that results in Wolfgang making a goofball entertainer and not a genius which is – you guessed it – Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips). While The Count is appalled at Herman’s nature, it’s love at first sight for Lily. Herman and Lily begin their courtship over The Count’s objections as events conspire to change the Munsters’ lives – and where they call home.

The Munsters’ biggest problem may be finding its audience. There are certainly people that will get what Zombie is doing here with his color-saturated, high camp take on the original series, and it’s going to be annual Halloween viewing for them. But there will also be scores of people who will go in expecting a typical Zombie take and miss the PG rating, or those who want a pure distillation of the series without Zombie’s stylistic choices. Neither of those groups will be satisfied.

But those also aren’t the people it was made for. This is a loving homage to the original series, but one that Zombie isn’t afraid to do his own thing with. Phillips’ Herman and Shari Moon’s Lily are different than Fred Gwynne and Yvonne De Carlo’s original versions, but they fit quite well within Zombie’s Technicolor world while still containing the right callbacks to the original performances. These are younger, pre-suburban takes on the characters, and they match up well with each other as well as with Roebuck’s crusty old Count. Add in some fun performances by Sylvester McCoy as Igor and Richard Brake as Dr. Wolfgang and you have a cast that completely understands what Zombie is trying to do and are game to go along.

In fact, that’s perhaps the best thing that this film has going for it: everyone seems to be enjoying themselves quite a bit, and it shows in the performances. They’re able to give some of Zombie’s lamer jokes more bounce than they should – and some of them need it. The script is full of punny one-liners and gags that will probably play better with a younger crowd, but there are also occasions where they appealed to this cynical 40-plus year-old as well.

On the other hand, a bit more editing would not have gone amiss. At 109 minutes, this is a good 15 minutes longer than it probably should have been and it shows in the sagging middle where it meanders a little bit, waiting until the plot sets back in and kicks them off into the final act. This is the point where the jokes seem least effective and while it helps establish Herman and Lily’s romance, at least some cutting would have made for a leaner and funnier flick.

The look of the film will be another point of contention for fans, but in context it largely works. The Transylvania sets feel like something out of the classic horror films, properly adjusted for the off-kilter comedic sense. There’s a kitsch to the whole thing that makes it pop rather delightfully.

Ultimately, this is a movie where a lot of people’s minds are already going to be made up. Either you’ll pick up what Zombie is putting down here, or you’re going to think it’s a complete misfire and I don’t imagine there’s going to be much in-between. But while it doesn’t completely match everything that the original Munsters presented, it hits most of the marks and does so in Zombie’s own way, which is admirable and honestly rather fun to watch.

Special Features

The Blu-Ray edition of The Munsters comes with a feature commentary with Zombie, who goes into a lot of details regarding his decisions in the film along with filming anecdotes. Also included is an extensive behind-the-scenes featurette The Munsters: Return to Mockingbird Lane that runs just over an hour and goes in deep on the process of making the film.

The final score: review Average
The 411
The Munsters is sure to be the most polarizing film in Rob Zombie's already-polarizing filmmaking career. While it's likely to be dismissed by many for its dated humor, off-kilter look and over-the-top performances, those with an appreciation of camp are going to love what Zombie, his cast, and his crew is delivering here. Filled with heart and a strange yet good-natured sensibility, this film has the most potential to become a cult classic that I've seen in a long time.

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The Munsters, Jeremy Thomas