Rob Zombie’s reboot of THE MUNSTERS (2022) has been shown very little love by fans and critics alike since its release in September 2022.
Sure, the jokes are bad, the characters silly and over the top, the plot completely goofy, and the feel that it is all intended more for kids than for adults is prevalent throughout, but lest we forget, this is exactly how the campy original 1960s TV series THE MUNSTERS (1964-66) played out. Zombie has captured the exact feel of the show, and yet he seems to have been criticized for doing so. While I’ve always enjoyed THE MUNSTERS, I’ve never found the show all that funny because its humor was always purposefully awful, the canned laughter forced and annoying, and the situations more amusing than comical. This was how the show was, and how many of the 1960s comedy series were. The folks laughing the hardest were the ones on the laugh track! But this didn’t stop me and plenty of other fans from loving these shows.
And Zombie’s reboot isn’t just a rehash of the series. It’s an origin story and explains how these characters got together in the first place. There are also lots of homages and neat bits of casting, and it’s all wrapped in a lively exceedingly colorful package that makes this one a hoot to watch with or without your kids. I mean, you’ll love it on your own, but if you have kids, they can watch it, too. It’s not often you can say that about a Rob Zombie movie. In fact, this PG rated film is the first Rob Zombie movie not to be rated R.
In THE MUNSTERS, Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) lives with her father The Count (Daniel Roebuck) in his castle, and she is actively searching for the “man of her nightmares.” Her latest date with the vampire Orlock (Richard Brake) doesn’t go so well, as he is more interested in rats and the plague than in her. Meanwhile, Dr. Wolfgang (also played by Richard Brake) and his assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia) are busy trying to create life, and their creation, Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips), thanks to their mistaken use of a brain belonging to a failed comedian, awakens thinking he’s funny, and so he can’t stop telling bad jokes while trying to entertain people.
When Herman and Lily meet, they instantly fall in love, and the rest is history. And when the Count loses his castle, Herman moves them all from Transylvania to California, paving the way for their future family adventures on THE MUNSTERS.
Everything in THE MUNSTERS is completely silly and over the top, which is exactly how the show used to be. My favorite part of Zombie’s THE MUNSTERS is its exaggerated color scheme. The entire look of the film is bright, showy, and pretty darn impressive. It looks like a live action cartoon.
Zombie’s screenplay isn’t going to win any awards for best comedy, as the jokes are goofy and lame, the plot silly, and the characters absurd, but since it captures the spirit of THE MUNSTERS TV show, it’s ultimately successful.
He also includes various homages, like Herman’s fur vest, which is an homage both to the iconic Frankenstein Monster ads in 1960s comic books and to Boris Karloff’s Monster attire in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939). The vampire character Orlock is a dead ringer for Count Orlok from the silent classic NOSFERATU (1922), and the scenes between Dr. Wolfgang and Floop leading up to Herman’s creation parody situations and conversations from the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN.
The cast is fun. Jeff Daniel Phillips cracked me up throughout as Herman, and he captures Fred Gwyne’s goofy persona when he played the character. Herman is a hoot throughout this movie. Likewise, Sheri Moon Zombie captures the spirit of Yvonne De Carlo’s Lily from the series. And ditto for Daniel Roebuck as The Count, who also embodies Al Lewis’ performances as Grandpa.
Jorge Garcia, probably best known for his role as Hurley on the TV show LOST (2004-2010) enjoys lot of comedic moments here as the mad scientist’s assistant Floop. The cast also includes Catherine Schell, known to genre fans as Maya on the TV show SPACE 1999 (1975-77) as a gypsy woman, and Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, as a real estate agent. And original MUNSTERS cast members Butch Patrick and Pat Priest both have voice cameos.
THE MUNTERS isn’t high art. It’s not even a very good comedy. But neither was the original TV show. What it is, however, is a colorful and very amusing salute to the 1960s horror comedy series.
If you want to know how the Munsters first got together, and you want to enjoy a trip down memory lane, in one extremely colorful and cartoonish package, you should check out Rob Zombie’s THE MUNSTERS. It completely captures the undead spirit of the original. The only thing missing is the canned laughter.
And that’s a good thing.