I don’t know how many words I can write that don’t all just add up to a very simple statement: This is not for me.
But who is it for? At once it’s either the best-looking fan movie ever made or the cheapest appearing studio reboot of an existing property.
I grew up liking The Munsters just fine, but in a world where The Addams Family existed, it always felt schmaltzy and silly by comparison, like something some non-monster-loving suits concocted in a conference room versus something sarcastic and even thought-provoking. Think about it — what pop culture couple loves and supports one another as fully and perfect as Gomez and Morticia?
One of the creators, Allan Burns, even said, “We sort of stole the idea from Charles Addams and his New Yorker cartoons. Because Universal owned the Frankenstein character and the Dracula character for movie rights, they decided to take their characters instead of the characters we had written.”
Also — it was produced by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, who wrote nearly every episode of Amos ‘n Andy, so…yeah.
It took four pilots to get the original Munsters right, but the show lasted seventy episodes, as well as several movies like Munster, Go Home!, a cartoon and even some attempted reboots. There was even a 2012 series planned entitled Mockingbird Lane that would have been a dark take on the story and a 2017 Seth Myers-produced series that went nowhere.
Then came the news that Rob Zombie, a lifelong fan of the television series, would direct and write a remake. Zombie had wanted to make this movie for decades and had constantly included references to the show in his songs.
Then there were some teaser trailers and the internet lost his mind, either defending Zombie’s vision or taking a Cleveland steamer all over it.
The cast looks right. I mean, let’s start with the positives. Jeff Daniel Phillips has the right Herman Munster visuals, but his voice seems a bit off. Daniel Roebuck feels strange at first as Grandpa but it works. And well, Sheri Moon Zombie was playing Lily Munster no matter what.
This is also an origin story, showing how Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake) and Floop (Jorge Garcia) create Herman, how he becomes a rock star and how Lily falls for him, all while Grandpa spars with Zoya Krupp (Catherine Schell).
If you loved the show, well, perhaps you will be happy that nearly every character shows up, like Lester the Werewolf, Uncle Gilbert the merman, Zombo, the Tin Can Man (that’s Butch Patrick in the suit) and even Pat Priest’s voice on the Transylvania Airlines plane. And hey, for those that enjoy Zombie always getting great cameos, Cassandra Peterson shows up not as Elvira and Dee Wallace’s voice is in here too. And oh yeah — former Cinderella drummer Fred Koury as a raven.
Zombie shot this in a super heightened neon color scheme instead of the black and white from the show, saying “I noticed when the actors were in their makeup and they were just walking around, getting lunch or whatever, they looked like cartoon characters come to life. They were just so insanely colorful. I had to light the movie in the same fashion. It really seemed at all times like a live action cartoon, which was really exciting.” You could compare it to Creepshow‘s shock moments but when stretched across an entire movie, it might burn your eyes if you can even finish watching this.
Some of the jokes are beyond unfunny, like Herman yelling “Car 54, where are you?” which is not meta and merely blah. The one moment that hit me — thanks to Voices from the Balcony for calling it out — was Lily’s date with Orlock being a Type O Negative song. Actually, my wife had it right when she said, “I’d rather watch a movie about this vampire than any of these goofballs.”
The big problem is once the fan service and fun of seeing updates of all the characters wears off, there’s no story at all, hardly an antagonist and no real reason for anything to happen. Time stands still and people mug for the camera and eventually get to the house from the series and then, when you get to where you’d want to see what happens next, the movie ends.
I’ve long said I’ve not enjoyed Zombie’s films, but I loved his first two, House of 100 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. Since then, it feels like he’s been treading water. This movie shows that when he doesn’t have the crutches of gore, grime, bleakness and non-stop swearing he doesn’t know what to do next. This is also the second time he’s taken an existing franchise and taken you on a journey you didn’t need to go on to see things you had no interest in seeing.
I really wanted to be proved wrong here and Zombie to pull off an entertaining reimagining of a property he’s loved his entire life and proving to me why it’s so essential. Instead, this is a banal, cheap-looking waste of time and energy that I watched three times in the hopes that I’d find something, anything to love and utterly failing at every turn.
But maybe you might like it.