“The Munsters” – Netflix digs up a 1960’s sitcom monster family


The Munsters is currently streaming on Netflix.

Ben Kaiser, Reporter

I was browsing my Netflix list, late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight. For a movie, from my list, began to rise. And suddenly, to my surprise… It was “The Munsters” mess. 

Munsters mess… you know, like the “Monster Mash?” I was using the “Monster Mash” song to cleverly introduce this movie. If you don’t know the “Monster Mash,” you need to find a better Halloween playlist for your Spotify.  

“The Munsters” was a television sitcom that aired in 1964. The series followed the lovable Herman Munster, formerly Frankenstein’s monster, living in a quiet American suburban neighborhood. Herman lives with his monster family: Lily, his vampiric wife; Grandpa, an aging vampire count; Eddie, his werewolf son; and Marilyn, the “ugly duckling” of the family who is completely normal. RThey also own a pet dragon named Spot that dwells under the front stairs. The Munster family dealt with the usual family sitcom problems of the sixties except with the macabre twist. It’s a lot like “The Addams Family,” which aired the same year.  

“The Munsters” film is directed by Rob Zombie. Yeah, that’s his name. Zombie started his career in music with the band White Zombie (named after the Bela Legosi horror film). After going solo, Zombie made music in heavy metal, industrial metal, shock rock, and nu metal. His music and lyrics often centered on horror and sci-fi themes.  

While still rocking metal music, Zombie soon got involved with writing and directing films, starting with “House of 1000 Corpses.” While getting negative reviews, the film drew in a cult following and spawned two sequels: “The Devil’s Rejects” and “3 from Hell.” Zombie also directed the “Halloween” remake, creating a new version of the masked slasher icon, Michael Myers. Zombie’s films are filled with disturbing atmosphere, gore, and foul language. Almost everyone looks like grungy hillbillies (you could call them “Hellbillies” based on one of Zombie’s album titles) who have never heard of shampoo or soap. 

Wait, this sick puppy just made a PG-rated movie adaptation of “The Munsters?” Thiiiiisss is going to be interesting…  

In monster-friendly Transylvania, Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake, “Perfect Skin”) creates a Frankenstein monster named Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips, “The Lords of Salem”), who has little intelligence and a never-ending supply of puns. He meets and falls in love with Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie, every Rob Zombie movie), whose father The Count (Daniel Roebuck, “The Fugitive”) quickly disapproves of dopey Herman. Herman and Lily get married, but clueless Herman gets tricked by Lily’s werewolf brother, Lester (Tomas Boykin, “I AM”), into selling the Count’s castle to Zoya Krupp (Catherine Schell, “The Return of the Pink Panther”), a vengeful Romani. The homeless Munsters are forced to move to California, settling in a decrepit house by their very confused realtor, Barbara Carr (Cassandra Peterson, “Elvira’s Movie Macabre”).  

That’s mainly the movie. It’s a prequel, so it’s mostly showing how Herman, Lily, and Count became a family and migrated to America. It didn’t even get to introduce the Munsters’ children from the show. It felt weird that the kids never appeared, even for the very ending, which reflects the show’s opening theme. 

So let’s get the main thing out of the way: this being Rob Zombie’s first non-R rating film. Zombie’s movies are full of brutal violence and a lot of F-bombs. Even Zombie’s cartoon movie “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” is a hard R-rated cartoon. So it was a shock that not only is Zombie rebooting “The Munsters,” he’s keeping it family-friendly.  

So did Zombie deliver? Welllllll… 

So it’s like this. Every scene (and I mean every scene) is campy, wacky, campy, extreme, over-the-top, and campy. Did I mention campy? 

Zombie fans were probably expecting grungy, gritty scenes, like Herman ripping villagers’ heads off their shoulders or The Count draining his victims’ blood. Or maybe seeing Lily seducing disappointing suitors to her chambers and ripping their throats out, giggling as they spasm on the floor in their own blood. …What? That would totally be in a Zombie movie. 

Anyways, the gore is now replaced with stylized goofiness. The film is littered with wacky sound effects and bright coloring, especially for the main characters. They’re pretty fitting for a sitcom set, although the sound effects are more “Three Stooges” style than “The Munsters” TV series had. 

The acting is… weird. Watching the Munsters interact in every scene reminded me of those Universal Studios rides. Like the Harry Potter ride with the actual actors from the movies popping up on the screen. They act like they just showed up on set with no clue what’s going on, and then talk to you like you can do something outside of sitting in your seat. They always felt awkward, like the actors rushing through the screen to get to something else later in the afternoon. So you’re just sitting there in your seat watching Daniel Radcliffe give a half-assed performance and pretending that you’re gonna save Hogwarts instead while he flies away on a dragon or something. 

What was I talking about, again? Oh, right, right. 

So the acting in “The Munsters” kinda felt like that. It’s a bit hokey acting, with a little bit of a rushed feeling, but it kinda fits the overall feel of the movie. Like it’s a really long Universal Studios ride with Rob Zombie directing the ride. 

I did enjoy how the film ties in the brain swap from “Frankenstein” (1931) to Herman’s goofiness. For those unfamiliar with the original Frankenstein movie, Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant damages a preserved healthy brain and grabs a corrupted criminal brain instead to use for the monster. In “The Munsters,” Dr. Wolfgang’s assistant gets the bodies of the Rathbone twins mixed up. Wolfgang wanted the brain of Shelly Rathbone, who he considered the smartest man in the world. But his assistant gets the toe tags mixed up and unknowingly takes Shecky Rathbone’s brain instead, who was an unsuccessful comedian with bad puns. It was a fun parody of the classic horror film, and it gives an explanation for Herman’s constant joking and puns from the show. But I always say the “Abby Normal” bit from Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” is the best parody of that scene.  

One thing I will say I was disappointed by Rob Zombie’s work on this film is the complete lack of Grandpa’s (The Count) personal vehicle, the Dragula. I mean, Zombie even has a song called “Dragula.” What the hell, man? 

As far as the story goes, things just happen. Before there’s time for any effect to take place, the story has already moved on to other shenanigans. It almost felt like this was several episodes of a sitcom blended together but lacked an overarching focus. At first, you think the story is about Herman and Lily dating, and The Count is gonna try to break them up. But, nope. Maybe The Count will stop the wedding, but nope it happens anyways.  

I mean, props for avoiding the usual rom-com cliques. Thank you, Rob Zombie. 

There’s no main antagonist or dilemma. I figured Zoya and/or Wolfgang were going to be villains or something, but they completely disappear after the Munsters leave for America. Other than losing the castle in Transylvania, they never achieve a main goal in the end. The film just ends after Lester returns with money and roll credits.  

“The Munsters” isn’t a bad adaptation, but it’s not really good either. The movie mainly lacks a main story structure, but it does feel like a combined three- or four-episode story mended together. Outside of the fact that Herman and Lily are in love, there really isn’t any story. It felt like once they got married, Zombie was just getting them in place to where the TV show starts. 

My final word would be that “The Munsters” is just ehh. It’s probably not going to be the best movie to watch for the Halloween season, but I am 100% certain that October is going to have plenty of crappy horror films to dread. Looking at you, “Smile.” 

“The Munsters” is currently streaming on Netflix.