"The Munsters" (2022) - Our review.
How could we start off the spooky season without reviewing one of the most anticipated movies featuring our favorite family of fright? Yes, I’ve seen Rob Zombie’s “The Munsters”.
I’m sure you want to know “was it good?” of “just how bad was it?”. But the truth lies somewhere in the middle. And even before I saw the movie, having avoided reviews and mostly only seeing the trailer and other previews, I was pretty sure this was going to be my assessment. Why? Because it’s taking a beloved franchise with iconic actors and “updating” them (even if that’s not the intent).
The movie is not a typical Rob Zombie slasher-cum-grunge fest. I’m almost wondering if that would have been better than what we got. First off, the movie looked great. Vivid colors, wonderous sets and wardrobe. The actors all looked the part and even the 1313 Mockingbird Lane home set in Mockingbird Heights, California was, pardon the pun, dead to rights.
Jeff Daniel Phillips is okay as Herman, if lacking that iconic Fred Gwynne voice and delivery of lines. Sheri Moon Zombie is pretty good as Lily. And finally, Daniel Roebuck as the Count (aka Grandpa) was great—a performance worthy of an homage to Al Lewis. The other actors, with many characters borrowing from the Universal library, were over-the-top, but fine for the subject matter. And Rob Zombie’s directing was excellent.
And with that, we must turn to the story. This is a prequel. An origin story. Which means no Eddie Munster and no Marilyn. The gist of the generally weak plot is the “creation” of Herman, leading to him falling in love with Lily, then getting swindled into turning Grandpa/Dracula’s castle over to one of his ex-wives. Kicked out of their abode in Transylvania, they set out for a new life in California. The end.
The story plods along, hitting all the nods to the TV series and even has a few funny lines. It’s all just ‘average’--even bland at times. The visuals are killer scene-after-scene, the acting is okay, but telling an engaging story is not what this movie is about. In fact, the best parts are at the end of the movie when the Munsters arrive in the U.S. on Halloween. This is when the hijinks you remember from the TV show start, but just as things start to turn, the movie is over, and it ends in a weird way. Does anyone remember the Munsters being rich? The contrast between the outsiders (“The Munsters”) and the normal people (presented here as if it really was the mid-1960’s-cars, clothing, telephones and all) is at the core of what these kinds of stories are, but we only get to see a small amount of it as most of the movie is set in Europe. And I would be remiss to not call out how the set pieces, including the children’s 60’s era Halloween masks, the “Leave it to Beaver” monsters shirt episode and the prequel-driven synergy with the Munsters TV show itself works perfectly.
The movie has a few cameos by Rob Zombie-returning actors like Dee Wallace and an appearance by horror legend Cassandra Peterson (aka “Elvira”, who was born just down the road from me in Manhattan, KS). The biggest disappointment were the use of the current living original Munsters stars Pat Priest and Butch Patrick. Both only did voiceovers. Having known they were set to appear, I had to find the credits to see exactly what they’d done. Perhaps Ms. Priest is not able to work, but I know Mr. Patrick is since I stood two feet from him yesterday.
The movie was full of nods, homages and origin stories including everything from the fire-breathing pet dragon Spot to Grandpa’s bat Igor. Even the house gets an origin, along with Herman’s job at Gateman, Goodbury and Graves. And the whole thing feels very timeless with appearances via archival footage by Julie Adams (from “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”), Boris Karloff (as the Mummy), and thrown in for good measure, Jerry Mathers as “The Beaver”. No one said this movie wasn’t fun in places.
In the end, was this remake worth it? Yes. The Munsters has franchise potential. Imagine a Spirit Halloween that includes a Munsters section next year! The movie itself was such a set up that it really needs a sequel to get into the meat of what the movie was trying to do. Add to that, two of the main characters never even appear. Could it have been better? Absolutely. But this film had an uphill battle ahead of it, no matter how good it was. And it wasn’t that good. It was missing the spark of the old TV show. But even more so, it was missing the same thing every Munsters remake has lacked—Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo and Al Lewis. To paraphrase Herman—after they made him, they broke the mold. And that’s true for those classic characters and their amazing actors, as well.
3.5 out of 5 Neck Bolts.