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'The Munsters' review: Rob Zombie directed adaptation would scare away ghouls and goblins

Courtesy of Universal Pictures


Turning in his usual, grungy, and nasty R-rated horror flicks for something a bit more family friendly, director Rob Zombie’s PG rated “The Munsters” has the look and feel of the popular 1960s television show, but the disjointed presentation, awkward side plots, and horrendous performances renders this “reboot” a crushing disappointment. 

Joining the leagues of “Dark Shadow,” another dull cinematic adaptation of an old television sitcom, “The Munsters” tries maintaining the goofiness and ambiance of what “Munster” fans cherished, however, the elongated stretches where nothing happens while dizzy exposition runs amok, makes you question why Zombie, best known for “House of 1000 Corpses” and, uh, “The Devil’s Rejects,” decided to make this his next project. Clearly, he’s a fan, but he doesn’t reach across the aisle and give newbies an idea of why people enjoyed this show in the first place.

Released directly to DVD with a Netflix streaming release, “The Munster” serves as an “origin” story before Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie – awful) meets Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips). She’s living with her father, the Count (Daniel Roebuck) in their Transylvania castle while trying to find a lover in the monster-infested city (a date with a dude that looks like Nosferatu doesn’t go well). Elsewhere, a mad scientist, Dr Wolfgang (frequent Zombie collaborator Richard Brake – who is the best thing in the movie) and his minion Floop (Jorge Garcia) create a monster that ends up becoming Herman Munster and it’s off to the races.

Eventually, Lily sees Herman on TV and they quickly become chummy and romantically involved with a wedding booked after the first date. Another strange and out-of-nowhere conflict comes into play when Lily’s werewolf brother Lester (Thomas Boykin) convinces Herman to sign over the deed to the Count’s castle to pay off a gambling debt. Confused what this has to do with the aura of “The Munsters?” Me too. Like many of the useless subplots, the werewolf/deed debacle is a brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turn of events that’ll stir up more confusion than intrigue, especially as the characters seem just as lost navigating Zombie’s script, which feels like a treasure trove of easter eggs rather than a coherent motion picture.

There was potential for “The Munsters” to conjure slapstick fun ala “The Addams Family” or modernize the story in a way that makes sense for the characters (this very idea is hinted in the final thirty minutes where the Munster clan must adapt to a suburban lifestyle), but it ends so quickly, the aftershocks are barely felt. Zombie deserves credit for reaching outside of his genre comfort zone, but “The Munsters” is ultimately too bland and obtuse for older fans, and unengaging for younger ones. It makes you ask: Who is this for? 

Grade: D

THE MUNSTERS is now available on digital and is streaming on Netflix.


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