‘The Munsters’ Review: Scattered Love Letter to Sitcom 

Daniel Rester reviews the Netflix film 'The Munsters,' written and directed by Rob Zombie and based on the classic sitcom.
User Rating: 5

‘The Munsters’ Review: Scattered Love Letter to Sitcom 

By Daniel Rester

Rocker and filmmaker Rob Zombie has made a number of bloody and sweaty horror projects since the early 2000s. Most of them are mediocre to bad, though I will defend The Devil’s Rejects (2005) any day as I think it is his one excellent film. Zombie swaps his usual R rating and abhorrent images for a PG rating and silly jokes for his latest project, The Munsters. Unfortunately, the change in style doesn’t work as The Munsters is just another disappointing Zombie flick. 

The Munsters was a popular sitcom in the mid-1960s, running for 70 episodes over two seasons. It revolves around a family of horror characters trying to live amongst the normal people on Mockingbird Lane in the American suburbs. Zombie’s film acts as a meet-cute prequel story for how the family ended up there. 

Sheri Moon Zombie takes on the role of Lily, a vampire out to find true love. She lives with her father The Count (Daniel Roebuck) in a castle in Transylvania. Their lives change once they meet a Frankenstein monster-like being named Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips). As Herman and Lily fall in love, The Count learns that he may be losing his castle due to a scheme by his werewolf son Lester (Tomas Boykin). 

Zombie and his creative team get the aesthetic right. The production design, costumes, and lighting all pop with a cartoon-like look. Though the show was in black and white, Zombie’s vibrant color choices and cheap TV sitcom elements feel fitting. A lot of detail went into recreating this world, down to the Mockingbird Lane house being built as a set. Even the transitions between scenes are appropriately flashy. 

While Zombie as a director has always been able to capture unique horror images and tones, Zombie as a screenwriter has always stood in his way. The Munsters starts out charming enough, but the plot becomes thin and scattered as Herman and Lily just move from situation to situation. Hardly any conflicts present themselves, with the Lester plot feeling half-baked when it comes to the Munsters losing their home. Instead things are introduced and dropped repeatedly, such as Herman being a punk rocker when he meets Lily and then never playing music again after that. 

I got chuckles out of some of the jokes but many of them also fall flat. Herman feels dumbed down and makes tons of lame dad jokes followed by an obnoxious laugh. Phillips doesn’t channel Fred Gwynne’s deep voice and instead opts for an annoying high pitch. Zombie’s writing is just lazy and easy for the character too, with Herman getting drunk on Shirley Temples and passing out from holding his breath making it into the film as gags. 

Moon Zombie is better as Lily, though she plays her as too ditzy at times. Roebuck is fun as The Count and looks like he stepped off the original set. Richard Brake comes across the best though, playing both mad scientist Dr. Wolfgang and the vampire Orlock. These are small roles, but Brake steals scenes with his mix of menace and humor. 

The Munsters is obviously a passion project for Zombie, but it is hard to say who the movie was made for other than him. It has some enjoyable moments and cool old-school production values, but the writing is messy throughout. I give Zombie props for trying something new outside of his gory horror flicks though. 

My Grade: 5/10 (letter grade equivalent: C)

Running Time: 1h 50min


Written by
Daniel Rester is a writer for the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing short films for years. Rester also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here," which is currently in post-production and will be Rester's feature directorial debut.

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