Rob Zombie’s long-anticipated love letter to the classic 60s series The Munsters has finally arrived in all its slapstick glory! I am happy to report that devotees of old-school humor and Zombie’s filmmaking in general will have a blast with this colorful ode to the horror/comedy shows of yesteryear. Clearly, Zombie is a huge fan of the brand, as he carves out this delightful world with attention to detail, and a reverence to honor what came before. Haters will no doubt still pick apart every new entry into Zombie’s filmography, but for what its worth, The Munsters is one of his most assured and confident projects to date.
Essentially a prequel story to get us to the eventual destiny of life on Mockingbird Lane, The Munsters sets out to explore the undying love between Herman Munster and Lily. In one’s stereotypical original tale, we would begin all the way back when Lily was a young child. However, this is Rob Zombie we are talking about. He instead uses the literal birth of Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips, The Lords of Salem, 31), the horrific “Frankenstein” experiment of Doctor Wolfgang (Richard Brake, 3 From Hell, 31), as a jumping off point. Assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia, Lost, Cooties) accidentally mixes up the brains of a genius and a complete idiot at the morgue when they are nabbing things from the bodies. In a blast of electricity, Herman comes to life; Doctor Wolfgang wishes to save his full reveal for live television on Good Morning Transylvania!
Lily (Sheri Moon-Zombie, The Devil’s Rejects, 31) lives in her grand castle with aging Grandpa (Daniel Roebuck, Halloween II, 3 From Hell), and just so happens to be tuned into Good Morning Transylvania that day. Lily hasn’t had much success in her pursuits of finding a mate, but that may all be about to change… She falls head over heels for Herman just watching him crack ridiculous Dad jokes on air. Lily turns demonic when she screams “don’t you dare touch that dial!” to Igor (Sylvester McCoy, The Hobbit, The Owners), a sequence I found extremely effective in calling back to the series feel. Herman will be performing a one-night only concert at the Zombie A Go Go Nightclub, and of course, Lily makes it her mission to attend. She strides curiously around backstage like a groupie straight to Herman’s room after the show. It doesn’t take much convincing for Lily to persuade Herman on a date with her—he too is instantly smitten, complete with heart backdrops.
From here, Zombie follows the tumultuous courting that occurs between Lily and Herman before they tie the knot. Lily’s alcoholic gambling werewolf brother, Lester, owes people a lot of money, and is being forced to swindle his sister out of their gigantic castle. This has shades of The Addams Family movie from 1992, and yet, its sort of stream-of-consciousness vibe gives it a sitcom-y, easy watching feel that only Zombie could pull off. It is an effortless attempt at emulating a bygone style—in fact, if given the ability to produce sequels, I would pay money for a return trip to Mockingbird Lane. Now that the universe is fully-formed, we could realistically stop in for a visit following them on any number of exciting cinematic journeys.
Whichever way one falls on the scale of loving or hating The Munsters, there is no denying the vibrant charm it delivers in spades. Decadent Halloween elegance and atmosphere mingle with kitsch aesthetics and House of 1000 Corpses-esque production design. From Moon-Zombie to Phillips to Roebuck and back again, our core trio form a significant, recognizable dysfunctional family. Even if the film commits a cardinal sin—spoiling the ending during marketing—I absolutely loved The Munsters, and its kooky ode to an iconic era.
The Munsters stroll down Mockingbird Lane when they bring their new movie to Netflix, Blu-Ray, and DVD on Tuesday, September 27th.