[Movie Review] THE MUNSTERS

[Movie Review] THE MUNSTERS
THE MUNSTERS l Universal Pictures
I can’t say much about his music but, when it comes to Rob Zombie‘s films, you can always depend on some form of controversy, especially when it happens to be a remake, ala Halloween (2007). Horror fans tend to be strongly pro or anti-Zombie when it comes to his filmmaking but for me, I’m smack dab in the middle. I think his sophomore feature, The Devil’s Rejects, is a near-perfect film and can appreciate the risk in creating one’s own vision when tackling beloved horror remakes. This leads us to his latest film, THE MUNSTERS, based on the 1960s TV series of the same name. So how does Zombie’s version of THE MUNSTERS fare? For this critic, surprisingly well.

In Rob Zombie’s THE MUNSTERS, the film centers around the greatest love story ever told. Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) is your typical 150-year-old, lovelorn vampire looking for the man of her nightmares…that is until she lays eyes on Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips), a seven-foot-tall, green experiment with a heart of gold. It’s love at first shock as these two ghouls fall fangs over feet in this crazy Transylvania romance. Unfortunately, it’s not all smooth sailing in the cemetery as Lily’s father The Count (Daniel Roebuck) has other plans for his beloved daughter’s future, and they don’t involve her bumbling beau, Herman.

I owe writer/director Rob Zombie an apology because, based on the trailer, I had very little hope for the movie and was very outspoken about that. When the trailer was released, it immediately caused a backlash with fans (including myself) due to its lackluster, cheap approach. Pre-dating that, fans were already put out that Zombie was making his version in color unlike the black and white approach of the series. If anything, this was a reminder for me that we shouldn’t base movies entirely on their trailer. What I thought was going to be a mess of a film ended up being surprisingly fun and quirky.

In bringing these characters to life, Zombie turned to his safety net of actors that he has worked with on previous films. I’ll admit this allows for the chemistry between all the characters to feel real. That said, without really looking for the right actors for the role(s), the results consisted of varying degrees of talent. Standing out among the cast were Richard Brake as Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang, “Transylvania’s most popular Mad Scientist,” and Jeff Daniel Phillips as the lovable giant, Herman Munster. I still stand by my original opinion that Sheri Moon Zombie, who plays Lily Munster, was not the right fit for the role. Sheri does capture the whole “head in the clouds” mentality but she lacks the fiery passion that her character in the series was known for. Additionally, her comedic chops fall flat as she wasn’t able to execute the goofy, campy humor that the series is known for.

Courtesy Universal Pictures

While some of the acting left a lot to be desired, what didn’t suffer was the production design. What was created to bring this world to life felt very immersive. Juci Szurdi’s production design combined with Zsuzsa Mihalek’s set design was nothing short of impressive and allowed for the different spaces within the film to feel lived in and full-bodied.

Additionally, the ghoulish home of The Munster family located on 1313 Mockingbird Lane was breathtaking. I think we can all agree that a lot of care was put into the visual presentation of THE MUNSTERS, as are most Zombie films. This also extends to the look of the other monsters stalking Transylvania. Working once again with the special effects studio Ex Mortis (House of 1000 Corpses, Halloween), they transformed the characters into detailed, ghoulish monstrosities. It’s these moments that make you realize how detailed Zombie is in the work that’s he executing.

As a whole, I think we can agree that Zombie has a deep love and appreciation for “The Munsters.” And regardless of his taking on this project, his understanding of the source material is on display. He infuses nostalgia in a way that’s not overbearing by having cameos of actors from the original series such as Butch Patrick (“Eddie Munster”) and Pat Priest (“Marilyn Munster”), as well as horror royalty like Cassandra Peterson and Dee Wallace. Furthermore, Zombie included Easter Eggs from different episodes of the series, one of which is my favorite moment in the film and features the Tin Can Man throwback.

Where the film suffers the most is during the second half. It loses the electrifying momentum that made the first act so much fun. Additionally, the ending felt very jarring and final. My assumption is it was made to feel like an episode was ending and there was a “more to come” sensibility. But this is a movie. We don’t know if there is more to come. Unfortunately, that made the ending feel rushed. Ultimately, I wish the devilry of the first half translated better to the second half.

Look, is this film perfect? No. Are die-hard fans of “The Munsters” going to dislike it? Most likely. But, for the rest of us, it’s something to have fun with. Compared to Zombie’s more gruesome and traumatic gorefests, this was a fun side to see from him and it’s made me want to see more. So to Mr. Zombie, I apologize for my initial harsh words because, at the end of the day, THE MUNSTERS was a fun, colorful origin story that put a smile on my face. To those that are apprehensive about seeing it, my advice would be to smoke a fat blunt and enjoy the technicolor journey that THE MUNSTERS will take you on.

You can catch Rob Zombie’sĀ THE MUNSTERSĀ on Netflix as well as get it on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.

Shannon McGrew
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