Rob Zombie’s reboot of The Munsters opens with Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake, Offseason, Doom) and his assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia, Lost, Cooties) hanging out in a graveyard looking for the zombified remains of the world’s greatest pianist. He needs its hands for the project he’s working on, building the perfect man.
That segues into an introduction to the rest of the crew. The Count (Daniel Roebuck, Penance Lane, The Fugitive) throws his back out rising from his coffin and his servant Igor (Sylvester McCoy, Dr. Who, The Hobbit) who has to fix it. Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie, Toolbox Murders, All of Rob’s other films) who, in a nod to Type O Negative, is on a date with Nosferatu. And Lester (Tomas Boykin, Nude Nuns With Big Guns, The Chair) a werewolf who seems to be estranged from his father. What about Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips, Satanic Panic, The Gifted)? You didn’t think Dr. Wolfgang’s experiment would be successful, did you?
Calling Rob Zombie’s films divisive would be a bit of an understatement. And with a filmography that includes House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and a reboot of Halloween he was far from an obvious choice to write and direct the latest reboot of The Munsters, a family-friendly TV show that ran from 1964 to 1966 and will probably live on eternally in reruns.
Calling Rob Zombie’s films divisive would be a bit of an understatement. And with a filmography that includes House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and a reboot of Halloween he was far from an obvious choice to write and direct the latest reboot of the family-friendly TV show. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of putting him in charge of it I figured it had to be better than his other films. It took about ten minutes and a giant neon “If the tomb’s rockin’, don’t come knockin'” sign for me to realize how wrong I was.
His version of The Munsters is an origin story of sorts, telling how Herman was created, met Lily and fell in love. That’s actually a fairly good idea. And while it was produced by Universal’s 1440 Entertainment division, the one that handles the low budget, usually straight to VOD sequels and cash-ins, it still has good production values. Wolfgang’s lab, for example, is a great homage to the original Universal Frankenstein.
It’s also got a solid cast full of genre veterans and familiar faces. That includes appearances in cameos and supporting roles from Elvira herself, Cassandra Peterson, Dee Wallace (Await the Dawn, Critters), Catherine Schell, (Space: 1999, Dracula) as well as Butch Patrick and Pat Priest who played Eddie and Marylin, The Munsters’ children, in the original series.
The problem lies with the script, it’s awful. He has even less understanding of comedy than he does straight horror, something I didn’t think was possible. Rather than recreate the tone of The Munsters TV show he’s made what feels like a highly exaggerated spoof of it. One that mocks its source material rather than respects it. He seems to have taken the same approach to The Munsters as he did to Halloween and its sequel, completely reinventing the characters as he saw fit. That somewhat worked with Michael Myers, the backstory and added brutality fit the material and Halloween is the only film of his I actually enjoyed.
And I suppose that approach might have worked here if Zombie had the talent to pull it off, or the good sense to get a writer who could do comedy. But since his ego wouldn’t let him do that we get nearly two hours of horribly unfunny material and unlikable versions of the characters we love. Even attempts at anachronistic humour like a digital camera with a giant 50s era flash attachment fall flat. The previously mentioned reference to Type O’s “Black No. 1” was the only time I even grinned.
Now I understand why Universal sold the finished film to Netflix. What I don’t understand is why Netflix bought it. It will debut on the streaming platform as well as on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital download on September 27th. FilmTagger meanwhile, can suggest some similar, and hopefully better, alternatives.