"I take orders from the Octoboss."

The Munsters (2022)

Well whaddya know, Rob Zombie made a PG-rated movie version of The Munsters. It’s a Universal direct-to-DVD-and-blu-ray movie, also released to Netflix on the same day, and to be honest the trailer looked pretty cheesy to me. Pre-release word I’d seen had been dire, and a pretty dull opening stretch had me worried, despite it immediately capturing a strong classic horror look.

But hot damn, by the end I really liked this one. In fact I might’ve loved it. It has that thing I always respect in a movie: it’s something that no other director would’ve thought to make, or would’ve wanted to make, or would’ve known how to make. This is an idiosyncratic horror auteur reviving his childhood favorite sitcom in defiance of the fact that it’s a style of show and humor that are completely out of fashion. He doesn’t feel the need to turn it into something hipper or grittier or more modern. It’s just shameless cornball humor. But also he doesn’t tone down anything about his cinematic style (other than excluding the foul-mouthed redneck stereotypes talking about skull fucking or whatever). It’s very much the same The Munsters we know but also it’s also the Rob Zombiest Rob Zombie movie possible – a beautiful two-headed beast of a thing.

If it was anybody else making this they would try to get some names in it. Let’s say… Bill Hader as Frankenstein’s monster Herman Munster, Alison Brie as his future wife (and vampire sorceress or something?) Lily and Eugene Levy as the Dracula-like Grandpa. Something like that. And maybe that could work, but I think Zombie made the better choice of using non-household names we know as regulars from his earlier movies who can disappear into the characters. It’s his own wife Sheri Moon Zombie as Lily, Daniel Roebuck (Jay Leno in THE LATE SHIFT) as Grandpa, and most crucially Jeff Daniel Phillips (who has had the most visibility of the trio, but it was as the caveman in the old Geico commercials) as Herman, and they are absolutely great telling the story of how Herman and Lily fell in love and moved to Raven’s Hollow.

Let’s get that slow opening out of the way, though. I worry it’s gonna kill it on Netflix. It’s a funny idea to show Herman’s origin story, being created from corpses by the egomaniacal mad scientist Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake, DEATH MACHINE) and his hunchback assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia, COOTIES). Brake has become a Zombie All-Star after being the best thing in his worst movie, 31, and filling a Sid Haig sized hole in 3 FROM HELL (you may have also seen him recently as a scary motherfucker in BARBARIAN, or the chemist in MANDY, or The Night King on Game of Thrones, or Joe Chill in BATMAN BEGINS). So I can see why Zombie wouldn’t want to race through his scenes, but that means it’s 28 minutes before Herman appears on Good Morning Transylvania and the movie, you know… comes to life. And it’s another ten minutes before Herman and Lily meet face to face, which is when Zombie admits on his commentary track “the heart of the movie really begins.”

That’s not to say all that is worthless – I especially like Lily having an awkward date with Count Orlock (Brake in elaborate Nosferatu makeup) and thinking he’s a nerd because he keeps showing her photos of all his rats. And we’re introduced to the unique world and look of the movie. Lily’s home town in Transylvania looks like a classic horror village but with neon lights for bars and bail bonds and stuff.

There’s a gimmick that the characters are given a cool looking introduction before they turn out to be goofballs, and Lily gets the best one, floating in looking like this:

And she gets to do another one at the wedding. Right away Moon Zombie is really funny as Lily (doing more acting with her hands than a Muppet) but that’s enhanced as soon as she’s bouncing off Phillips’ hysterical interpretation of Herman. They even have funny chemistry at a distance; it cracked me up watching her swoon over his TV appearance (made me think of that first performance scene in ELVIS) and then get dressed up to watch his band play the Zombie-a-Go-Go Nightclub. I found that really funny that when Herman was young he had a punk rockabilly band that dressed like ‘50s bikers (actually based on his racing outfit from MUNSTER, GO HOME!) and rocked out to one-liners from his standup routine (“Working in a mirror factory is something I could see myself doing”). Zombie and cinematographer Zoran Popovic (THE LOST, WAR INC., BRAWLER) mosh along with the handheld camera. No wonder Lily thinks he’s cool. I mean, I kinda want to go see them.

There are some bits of the movie that have the clean digital video sort of look that turned me off in the trailer, and the cluttered set of Grandpa’s castle looks kinda tacky to me. But for the most part I think it’s a beautiful movie. There’s a nice grain to it (especially on blu-ray) and they have these big sets on soundstages in Budapest, like a Universal horror classic but with carnival dark ride day glow colors, green and purple lights really making it pop. I wouldn’t usually use this as a compliment but I love the BATMAN FOREVER colors of the Transylvania scenes. I think it was on the commentary track that Zombie said they wouldn’t let him do it in black and white so he tried to figure out what would be the opposite.

So it really is the sitcom crossed with HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES. It’s a world where every glorious wood-framed TV is always showing ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN or THE MUMMY or the Leave It To Beaver monster sweatshirt episode if not some custom Zombieverse programming starring the same Munster actors playing different characters. And it’s not all coffins and catacombs – they go to Paris and all the sudden they’re in this gloriously colored hotel room, Herman is wearing adorable skull-and-crossbones pajamas and a monogrammed beret, being confused by the plot of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon.

Actually the most visually appealing stuff to me is all in daylight. I just love how the colors look like an old postcard.

The big joke in the last act is just based around them moving to suburban California on Halloween and not realizing that everybody’s wearing costumes (and thinks they are too). Corny as hell, which is exactly what the movie demands. Lily marveling at the beautiful children (wearing rubber monster masks), or worrying that she’s not cool enough “for this hipster neighborhood.” Perfect.

I especially appreciate that when I think of the type of thing these adaptations usually turn into. It’s a miracle there’s not some, like, greedy real estate developer or somebody as a villain whose schemes are foiled after an annoying slapstick climax. I’m so happy there’s not really a manufactured bad guy character. The only conflicts are stuff like Grandpa doesn’t want Lily to marry Herman, Herman gets scammed by Lily’s werewolf brother Lester (Tomas Boykin, I AM) and is embarrassed to tell Lily he lost money, or the Munsters are terrified of their non-monster neighbors. In my opinion a movie designed to deliver jokes like this (Herman had a transplanted brain so of course he gets brain freeze, their top tourist priority in Paris is the sewers, etc.) honestly shouldn’t have a plot involved enough that the audience feels like they’re expected to care about it more than they do. Without that charade we’re free to just concentrate on loving these monster people. More than the light plot, THE MUNSTERS is fueled by the sweetness of how much Herman and Lily adore each other. Which is even cuter when you consider that she’s played by the director’s wife.

The reaction to the announcement that Zombie was doing this was, to me, one of the funnier faux outrages in recent Twitter history. If you were to tell me that there were, say, seven people who were alive on that day, had active Twitter accounts, and sincerely cared about the sanctity of The Munsters at any time between the day they were born and the second before they read that headline, I would think you were out of your fuckin mind, there is no fuckin way it’s that many. I watched the show a little when I was a kid and probly more than many I’ve met in my life because it was way before my time, and I’m older than most of you scamps. But even if you are in fact the Sacred Guardian of the Munsters Legacy I gotta say, I don’t believe you’re as into them as Rob Zombie. Seems far-fetched.

I think it went without saying that the honorable thing to do was to shut up and let the weirdo who loves The Munsters make a weird movie about The Munsters. And I have been proven right. I will accept your apologies in the form of me not having to hear you mouth off about whatever the next couple stupid things that come up are. Thank you.

Mr. Zombie has made something few others could: a Munsters movie that is exactly as silly and stupid as The Munsters have always been, and yet, somehow, seems personal to him. Perhaps unconsciously it’s about all the loves of his life – including his actual wife, but also all the pop culture and visual stimuli of his youth that sent him on the path of becoming who he is. In a certain sense I think this is his version of a LICORICE PIZZA or a THE FABELMANS. Only a monster could get mad about something like that. Or a non-monster I guess.

Although THE MUNSTERS is based on a live action show it really seems like a cartoon, so just as I do with animated movies sometimes, I will end with some screen grabs of frames I thought looked nice. Happy October, everybody!

Appendix: My views on the films of Robert Zombie, for those keeping track

HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES: It’s a mess, but its distinct style, tone and exuberance have made me a fan since opening day. I believe I called it Tobe Hooper meets Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS: Probly my favorite, though it’s also his most disturbing so I don’t rewatch it very often. Much more assured direction, cool sun-drenched ‘70s style, love how it makes you quasi-sympathize with irredeemable monsters.

HALLOWEEN: I don’t think this one works, but I like some of it and respect its ambition so I don’t hate it the way so many people do.

HALLOWEEN II: This is actually my other candidate for favorite R. Zombie joint. Freed from the constraints of being a remake he really does something new and interesting with Michael Myers and with Lauria and Annie (who survived the first one in his version). I love that it can simultaneously pay homage to the original HALLOWEEN II and be a HALLOWEEN sequel that doesn’t seem to feel it has to follow any of the rules of previous HALLOWEEN sequels. Also this is an incredible looking movie. I’m a fan of many HALLOWEEN sequels but this is definitely the best looking one.

HALLOWEEN II director’s cut: I wrote a followup review for this one because I actually think it takes away some of what I love about the theatrical version (the survivor’s bond between Laurie and Annie, and the most perfect moment of the ending.) Most seem to disagree with me, but I feel strongly enough about it that I have a Canadian import blu-ray (theatrical cut’s not even included in the ridiculously complete Scream Factory HALLOWEEN box set).

THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO: I don’t remember liking this animated DTV movie very much.

THE LORDS OF SALEM: I was also a little disappointed in this one, didn’t seem to be on its cryptic wavelength, but I remember some great images and scenes and think I might try it again soon.

31: This one I didn’t really like at all other than the cinematography and the performance by Richard Brake as “Doomhead.” It’s the first time I felt like Zombie was just trying to do what was expected of him instead of having an idea he was excited about. I was bummed enough that I didn’t even review it.

3 FROM HELL: So my expectations were low for the long-delayed Firefly family trilogy capper, but I ended up liking it quite a bit. A return to form, kinda.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2022 at 7:32 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

16 Responses to “The Munsters (2022)”

  1. I was SO looking forward to it…and then it’s not even an international Netflix release, which I didn’t find out until its supposed release date. Not sure when it’s gonna show up at my part of the world.

  2. I always thought THE MUNSTERS was just the dumb ADDAMS FAMILY, and also I thought the trailer looked fuckin’ terrible (I believe I compared its neon digital look to “a Nickelodeon game show from 1993”) but, like Vern, I had to see what the fuck this thing even was, so I put in Herculean effort (I called TWO Targets, you guys) to pick up the Blu-ray on its first day of release. And I’m glad I did, because I ended up really enjoying myself. Unlike Vern, though, I think the movie starts out great but wears out its welcome before the end. There’s just no reason for a movie this shapeless to be this long, and I disagree that having some semblance of a plot skeleton isn’t necessary for something like this. I mean, it doesn’t even really have an ending. A character just shows up with a check and then it’s over. Was that what this was all about? Money? Maybe I’m missing an inside joke or something, since I, like 99.99999% of the viewing public and 100% of the twitter dipshits complaining about it, have not seen an episode of THE MUNSTERS in like 40 years. So maybe that ending had some resonance for for real Munster Magnates, but for me, it felt like Zombie’s lease on the studio space had run out and he had to wrap this thing up before somebody called the Bulgarian secret police on him.

    At first, I was a bit skeptical of its squeaky-voiced pubescent take on Herman (Wasn’t Fred Gwynne’s whole deal that he had an incredibly deep voice?) but that performance ended up being a highlight. Everybody was perfectly cast, actually. It’s odd. Had Zombie knowingly been collecting Munsters ringers his whole career (including marrying one) or did it just happen that way?

    Needed more Uncle Gilbert and, like, a climax of any kind, but it was a lot better than I thought it would be based on the hideous and amateurish trailer. I don’t know if they just needed a few more months of rigorous color correction or something but it ended up being a great-looking movie. I’m not one of those weirdos who’ll watch a movie just for the colors, but couple them with totally committed and unashamed cornball performances like these and you got an endearing if not completely successful little curiosity. I’ve been a mild-to-medium Zombie fan since CORPSES, but after this and 3 FROM HELL, where he finally let a little heart into his black little world, I’m excited to see what he comes up with next.

    Rob Zombie for THOR 5 is what I’m saying.

  3. The LICORICE PIZZA comparison is really interesting. I definitely had a similar half-confused, half-fascinated viewing experience where my reaction was, “I don’t know who this is for or why they let the director make this, but I’m kind of glad they did?” Both are just an off-beat love story between a goofy guy and an older woman with long straight hair who live in a world the director clearly loves. Also they both had Herman Munster in it! Definitely preferred J.D. Phillips to J.C. Reilly, whose one-line Fred Gwynne impression was lacking.

    This is also the first time I ever watched and movie and jokingly thought to myself, “The End!”…only to have it actually be the ending! It’s funny, because the whole “married European couple and an old man decide to pursue the American Dream” third act really reminded me of Werner Herzog’s STROSZEK, and it looked like it was heading for a similarly grim finale until a werewolf stopped by with a big check. I don’t think Crispin Glover would have approved of this ending, but as you point out it’s kind of nice that Zombie just wants these lovable monsters to exist practically conflict-free so he just cuts them a check and sends them on their way. The ending might actually be his interpretation of himself getting financing to make this very movie!

    (Now I’m wondering why Zombie has never worked with Crispin Glover. Seems like it’d be a good fit.)

    Cassandra Peterson was also incredibly charming – I wouldn’t have minded more of her. Since the main thing I associate with the original show is Butch Patrick as Eddie Munster, I was surprised he wasn’t included (other than as a robot voice, I guess?) Guess Zombie is anticipating a sequel.

  4. I’m only halfway through this, for the reason mentioned a couple comments ago: the tone is a little exhausting for two hours. But the film seems purely delightful. I like that it doesn’t go the Addams Family movie route of “How do we make this look big and modern for the current era?” Zombie is just like, “The Munsters was perfect in the ’60s already.” I think it contains his best direction, and the live-action Halloweentown vibe is charming.

  5. I like all of his movies and, though everyone else I know is very negative about them, my wife does too, bless her. Lords of Salem is my favorite. In his very metal movie career, it’s the ballad. The “turn the page” if you will.

  6. I think you nailed it. This is exactly what you’d imagine Rob Zombie doing would look like. It’s cute.

  7. I’m going to give this one a chance. As maybe the only one here that actually likes 31 ( Although I’ll contend it’s largely because of Doomhead) I owe Zombie that much. Not confident I will but I’ll try. I’m kind of a grump but I won’t go in to it trying not to like it.

  8. One thing I learned while perusing the Munsters Wiki to learn about all the deep Munsters lore that Twitter is obviously an expert on was that Grandpa isn’t just supposed to be a Dracula-like vampire: He’s supposed to actually BE Count Dracula. Lily’s full maiden name was Lily Dracula. Her brother’s name is Lester Dracula, which is probably the funniest possible name for a werewolf. That might actually be the funniest thing about the whole endeavor, honestly.

    I have also come to appreciate that Lester is a classic WOLF MAN style werewolf while Eddie is a more subtle WEREWOLF OF LONDON type. Gotta get all the Universal Monsters in there somehow.

  9. I mostly agree with you, Majestyk. I just think that shortening the pre-Herman section is the best way to shorten the movie since it lacks the funniest character and has the longest stretches without laughs. The ending is definitely abrupt and puzzling (I think it’s supposed to set up the show in some way, but they already bought the house, didn’t they?)

    But “endearing if not completely successful little curiosity” is how I’ve felt about most of Zombie’s movies since CORPSES. Actually there’s not one that I like without reseravtion, but I still find them so interesting.

  10. THE MUNSTERS never aired in my part of TV land, so I can’t say much about Zombie’s version. But I will probably never forget that it was the movie that made Mister Vincent “Melon Farmer” Majestyk admit that the look of a film can play a part in how it’s perceived.

  11. As you will no doubt recall I was the big Vernland hypeman for this film in the HALLOWEEN REMAKE II UNRATED thread (at least since it started shooting, I have to give CJ the credit for getting the initial ball rolling all the way back in 2010!), maybe not saying it was going to be good but giving it a bit of megaphone with the “Roll up! Roll up! See Rob Zombie do his death-defying PG family film based on a sitcom from the 60s!” So I would like to give my appraisal of the THE ZOMBSTERS, but, like ZOMBSTERS enthusiasm pioneer CJ, I have found this is not available in my country (although I started to suspect it wouldn’t be near to release). I have considered using…you know, magic, to check it out, but haven’t done so yet.

    Watched LICORICE PIZZA recently. Didn’t really get it, and I’m somewhat sympathetic to the people who cited grievances about the “problematic” elements of the film, by no means a default feeling from me, as they made me uncomfortable too. I agree though with the consensus that Alana Haim, whom I’d never heard of before, is pretty good in it. My main takeaway is it made me realise how good our BRUCE McMOUSE show pal and his band Wings’ song “Let Me Roll It Is”, worthy of the company of all the other 70s classics in the film, although I’ve already forgotten what all of them were.

    One of LICORICE PIZZA’s most prominent critics, the semi-frequently cited here Walter Chaw, reviewed THE MUNSTERS. He’s so-so on the movie, but makes a case for the original series as a work of substantive value and warmth. He also calls LEAVE IT TO BEAVER “possibly the most ethical and well-written series of television’s Golden Age”, which is interesting to hear as a non-American who has never seen a episode or even a long clip (I *may* have seen a bit of the John Hughes film version from the 90s, but that’s kind of neither here nor there), it’s pretty much only known to me as bland and innocuous at best, and an emblem of Bad White American 50s at worst, the pins that were set up to be knocked down by BLUE VELVET, THE TRUMAN SHOW, PLEASANTVILLE and more

    The Munsters (2022) - Blu-ray Disc

    **½/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B+ starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Daniel Roebuck, Richard Brake written and directed by Rob Zombie by Walter Chaw Rob Zombie only makes movies about families, and he does it with a wife he loves. It's the kind of relationship John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands shared: the iconoclastic, combative director and his muse, living examples of a creative partnership built on mutual respect, come hell or high water. I call Rowlands Cassavetes's "muse," though I think closer to the truth is that their movies feel like watching great jazz musicians play off each other. Without exactly equating one of the greatest independent filmmakers of all time with Rob Zombie, I think Zombie and Sheri Moon Zombie go to some interesting places together they couldn't get to on their own. I can't claim Zombie's for everyone--hell, Cassavetes ain't for everyone, either--but he works on a specific wavelength where if you're hip to it, if you fall into his groove, for his part he never loses the beat. I didn't get it when I first saw House of 1000 Corpses, but from a second viewing of The Devil's Rejects on, I've been ride or...

  12. I realize I’m just getting my balls busted here, but I’d like to reiterate that I don’t think a film’s look is completely insignificant, but that what happens in the frame is always going to matter more to me than the frame itself. I’ll always prefer an ugly but exciting movie over a pretty but dull one. Luckily, THE MUNSTERS is neither ugly nor dull.

    Vern: I kinda disagree there. I was more interested in the beginning of the movie than the end. think once Herman and Lily have gotten together, the film has expended most of its story, and that’s where my attention starts to waver. I wouldn’t even necessarily want to shorten the film, but I would want to add more obstacles to the central couple’s happiness. Zombie’s never been particularly interested in plot but I think a little more conflict would have given the film some needed propulsion to get us to the Mockingbird Lane stuff.

    What can I say? I like narrative. Gags and set design only get you so far with me.

  13. grimgrinningchris

    October 4th, 2022 at 8:57 am

    I once watched a girl strip off a Lily Munster costume at a burlesque show sitting next to Butch Patrick.

    That is all.

    Wait, no it isn’t. BJ shot several Zombie joints. He of Hatchet directorial duties. Did you ever watch the Slayer Killogy he directed? It’s on the Youtubes

  14. Ugh, I utterly hated this movie!!! Part of the charm of the original was that it was black and white, the garish dayglow over coloring just made it that much harder to watch and spoiled the charm. And since when is Lily such an over done ditz? She was never a ditz, she was yhe straight woman to Herman’s goofiness.

    I beyond hated this movie!!

  15. solongyoubastard – “the whole “married European couple and an old man decide to pursue the American Dream” third act really reminded me of Werner Herzog’s STROSZEK” holy shit me too!

  16. Gel, I took this movie to be about younger, more naive versions of the characters falling in love for the first time. By the time of the TV show they’ve been married long enough to be a square suburban couple with a grade-school-aged kid.

    I had some hesitation about this version of Herman with a not-very-deep voice. But then he laughed, and it was like Fred Gwynne’s laugh on steroids, and I was won over.

    I loved the movie. I loved the crazy colors. And it especially cracked me up when Herman and Lily sing a duet of a song that I never expected to hear in a Rob Zombie movie.

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