The Munsters - New Release Review
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Jeff Daniel Philips, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daniel Roebuck, Richard Brake, Sylvester McCoy, Cassandra Peterson
Written by: Rob Zombie
Produced by: Mike Elliot, Rob Zombie
Cinematography by: Zoran Popovic
Original Score by: Zeuss
In Transylvania, Herman Munster meets the love of his life Lily and they form a family and then decide to move to the United States of America
It’s very strange to be writing about a new release of ‘The Munsters’ in the year 2022. When I was a kid, I would often watch old reruns of ‘The Munsters’ episodes on BBC2 during my summer holiday visits to my grandparents. Even back then the show would have been considered niche in my friend circles and would easily have been confused with ‘The Addams Family’. ‘The Munsters’ show has a real warmth to it, something you don’t get in many sitcoms, especially ones based on, y’know, monsters. Every character had their own quirk. Herman is loud and clumsy but has a heart of gold, Grampa is often grouchy but has the family’s best intentions at heart and Lily Munster is the mother with all the patience of a saint. Fast forward to 2022 and these characters have turned into jerky, pathetic, obnoxious versions of themselves. What happened?
Rob Zombie has always claimed to be a fan of the Munsters family, which was evident when he used the old Munster mobile in his ‘Dragula’ video. It just seems to me that, much like his ‘Halloween’ remake, he tries to make the characters his own but they often lose what made them great in the first place, by trying to be original. Zombie has brought along some of his regular cast members to play the titular characters. Jeff Daniel Philips, Sheri Moon Zombie and Daniel Roebuck as Herman, Lily and Grampa (or The Count, as he’s known in this film) respectfully. Roebuck is having a ball here as The Count, and he’s the most entertaining to watch. Roebuck is a die-hard Munsters fan and it’s great to see him make this character his own. JDP and SMZ both try to make Herman and Lily their own too, but they really don’t understand what made the characters so loveable in the first place. Like I said, the blame lies on Rob Zombie, as the writer/director, but it almost seems like Zombie was too embarrassed to tell his wife and best friend they were doing a terrible job, so he just let them do their thing.
Jeff Daniels Phillips is more in line with the ‘Munsters Today’ Herman (played by John Schuck) than the original Fred Gwynne version. This almost feels like Zombie has rebooted the franchise and this movie is like a pilot, but with the characterization of Herman, I wouldn’t want to watch a new show. Phillips’ Herman is mean and self-obsessed, and often comes across as unlikeable. This choice of voice is also strange. Often sounding like a teenager whose balls have just dropped. I get the idea behind it; he’s just been made so he’d maybe sound like he’s going through puberty, but it really doesn’t work, especially when you have to listen to an ear scratching rendition of Sonny and Cher’s “I've Got You Babe” performed by Herman and Lily.
Sheri Moon Zombie plays Lily with no personality, which makes it hard to believe that she and Herman would ever fall in love. They only get together because the plot wills it into existence. Most of the romance scenes play out like bad Ed Wood moments (and not in a good way.) There are other side characters that at times can be quite fun. Richard Brake as Dr Wolfgang and Sylvester McCoy as Igor are highlights. The costume and production designers are the heroes here. Dr Wolfgang’s laboratory is incredible looking and the original Munsters house is a perfect recreation. All of the outfits are fun and stylish, even having some throwbacks to certain costumes from the show like Herman’s hot-rod outfit.
After saying all this, and not liking many aspects of the film...I couldn’t stop watching it. The first half of the film, when based in Transylvania, is just the right amount of camp. It never had me rolling on the floor laughing, but it also never had me rolling my eyes. The last 20 minutes feel like a studio mandate, forcing the characters to move to America so they’re set up just like they are in the show. The actual ending I’ll not spoil, because there just isn’t one. It just ends. Like literally, half way through a scene, it just cuts to credits.
Would I watch more? Yes. Do I want more? No. A new Munster Show with different writers might work, but if we’re going to get another outing with Zombie at the helm, I hope someone buys him ‘The Munsters’ boxset for Christmas, so he can remind himself what made the original show so timeless.
- Adam Neeson
'The Munsters' is now available to Rent or Buy in the UK on Digital Platforms and on Blu-ray and DVD from January 9th.