Review by Sean Boelman
Rob Zombie is one of the most recognizable filmmakers in the cult film space, having created such fan favorites as House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. He’s no stranger to adapting popular IPs after his divisive duo of Halloween movies, and the community was equally split when it was announced he would be tackling another (this time, family-oriented) property: The Munsters.
Based on the now-iconic television series from the 1960s, The Munsters tells the story of a family of monsters who move from Transylvania to an American suburb. Zombie has created what is effectively an origin story for everyone’s favorite monster family, exploring the romance between Herman and Lily Munster.
In a way, the film almost feels like an extended pilot to a new reboot of the series, as it picks up before the eponymous family leaves Transylvania and ends with an unsatisfying cliffhanger ending. However, this also provides a great introduction to these characters for new, younger audiences who might not be familiar with the source material.
The portion of the movie that is likely to receive the most negative criticism is its visual style, and while Zombie’s approach to the film certainly looks somewhat cheap, it’s for the purpose of recreating a particular retro vibe. It’s obviously not interested in capturing the black-and-white style of the original television series, but the vibrant, campy colors of the movies that followed the show’s cancellation.
It’s clear that Zombie has a profound admiration for this property and these characters, and he has made something that manages to be both an effective ode to one of the titans of family television while still very much being its own thing. It’s the rare throwback that isn’t shoving nostalgia down viewers’ throats, which alone makes it meritorious.
As a whole, the film has a very goofy vibe to it. It’s very much a Zombie movie, albeit one without the blood and gore. Even though this is Zombie being family-friendly, the film still has his maximalist, exaggerated tendencies. Everyone and everything about the movie is dialed up to eleven, giving it a very particular energy that is infectious.
Like most of Zombie’s other movies, Zombie puts his wife, Sheri-Moon Zombie into the leading role. And honestly… it works here. Her usual brand of over-the-top, theatrical acting is perfect for a film whose entire brand is cheesiness. This movie’s Herman, Jeff Daniel Phillips, is certainly no Fred Gwynne, but he’s fun to watch in the role nevertheless.
The Munsters is pretty much what you would expect from Rob Zombie making a family film: a campy, silly movie with a ridiculously wild style. His approach is sure to disillusion purists of the series, but his unique homage to a television show that was part of so many people’s childhoods is certainly at least somewhat charming.
The Munsters is now available on VOD and Netflix.