One possible reason why Rob Zombie‘s The Munsters didn’t make it to movie theatres is probably because the story isn’t too different from the first animated The Addams Family movie. We get an origin story on how Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) fell in love. It strangely ignores a lot of pathos from the television series where they are seen interacting with the normal world.
It’s not to say this director’s love letter to this sit-com is doomed. To say which horror comedy has the biggest following must be with the Addameses. The reason is because they made more spinoff appearances and I can see Fred Munster pouting. He’s more of a comic character than the fun loving hispanic with potential aristocratic upbringing. Although Fred Gwynne was well respected with his humourous roles on television and Yvonne De Carlo is known for The Ten Commandments, it’s tough to beat John Astin and Jackie Coogan. Together, those two are television and film industry legends.
My fondness for The Munsters came from how much I love The Count (who would later become Grandpa in the TV series). Daniel Roebuck is perfect in channelling Al Lewis‘ mannerisms. Only one of the two beasts, Spot (the monster under the stairs), and the Raven, gets an origin story of sorts. The latter’s inclusion is hilariously explained, and to say a former Time Lord got to play this character isn’t spoiling anything. Sylvester McCoy gets the best moments as Igor, and I suspect if he could play “the clown” forever, he would.
The story offered here isn’t anything spectacular. It’s set before the Munsters even became a family. It’s about the courtship of Eddie’s father, way before the kid was born or conceived. The Munsters doesn’t connect with the television series because the rest of the family, especially concerning Marilyn, are missing. Had there been more reference to this character, and who her parents were even in this origin story, I’d be more invested. Instead, all we know about Lily and The Count is that they lived in a castle, often kept to themselves, and never said anything about their extended family. It’s an opportunity completely missed.
Instead, all we get is a look at when Herman was made, the mistakes made in his creation, Lily going ga-ga over this hunk of a man, and who is truly courting whom for much of the film. By the time they get married, they aren’t too concerned about informing their extended family–Zombie may have been afraid of making his film too much like Hotel Transylvania–and instead make the happy day seem like a shotgun affair. By the last act, we see them deciding to settle down and consider life in some kind of estate.
Rob Zombie doesn’t even have a proper story laid out. We’re watching one set piece being laid atop another with aplomb. He’s expecting that we’ll go with the randomness that’s going on and be able to make sense out of it later. It makes for a chaotic presentation. What we’re watching is essentially Svengoolie trying to fill 110 minutes instead of offering a movie. And the fact we see this director wear a tee of this tv host in the production diaries in the home video release only confirms my suspicions.
What he crafted is to let us not think about his film as a reboot. Had it been, there’d be more back story to lay down. The next stage of the Munsters journey has to answer the question of how does an unlikely pairing beget a child? I suspect Grandpa has a plan….
3 Stars out of 5