I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t grow up with 1960s sitcom “The Munsters.” I was only ever peripherally aware of its existence, and have probably seen enough clips and stitched together memories of it glossing across the old tv screens to piece together a full episode. So to say that I have any authority over the integrity of the source material would be a bold-faced lie. I don’t, and I have no attachment to any of it one way or another. I do know, however, that the sitcom was meant to be a monster mash parody of things like “Leave it to Beaver,” which is what made it so effective in its time.
So while I believe that this concept could work in the modern age with the right writer and director behind it, I can categorically say that Rob Zombie‘s “The Munsters” is not the way. Excruciatingly unfunny, painfully performed, and oddly juxtaposed against a vibrant backdrop that looks like it was filmed in an old Spirit Halloween, whatever this show as trying to be it fails and fails hard. “The Munsters” is cringe in all the wrong ways, operating with no real ideas or story and as funny as a bad sitcom with all the laugh tracks deleted.
Produced, written and directed by Rob Zombie, Netflix’s “The Munsters” acts an origin story of sorts to the original series of the same name. It follows the meeting and love story (and eventual marriage) of Herman and Lily, who must overcome the disproval of her father, The Count. That’s really all that happens here, because Zombie seems incapable of being able to structure a story in any meaningful way. So the synopsis of “The Munsters” feels like a half baked TV pilot unnecessarily stretched in a 110 minute film that never, ever, works. The whole thing doesn’t even really function as either, feeling more like Zombie’s fond memories of his favorite moments loosely strung together by the characters his remembers and (of course), his wife. It’s perfectly fine to dote on your significant other, but for fuck sake can we can someone, ANYONE else to play a lead in any of your projects? At least Helena Bohnam Carter can ACT. You know you have a bad film when the synopsis is one sentence long and the best actor in your film is Sheri Moon Zombie, and even she’s hard to stomach in this thing most of the time.
Now before you blow a fuse trying to explain to me how all of this is intentional – the cringe, the silliness, the over the top performances, know that I get it. “The Munsters” is all of those things by nature, and I’m not expecting the “House of a1000 Corpses” treatment to a “Brady Bunch” monster parody. But regardless of intent or close it wants to stay to its origins, THIS is not the way to do it. Everything feels stilted and over the top in the wrong ways, with every bit of dialogue feeling like each actor yelled, “LINE!” before every delivery. There is an indescribable pacing in every word spoken, and it is jarring and insufferable from the moment characters open their mouths and never gets better. My friend author Riley Silverman said it best: “It’s like someone shot a soft core porn parody and forgot to add the sex.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, and she 100% sums up the entirety of “The Munsters.”
Rob is many things, but a comedy writer is most certainly not one of them. “The Munsters” is just desperately unfunny, like everything is written with a “insert joke here” in the notes, with no connection or understanding for how jokes work in the first place. Even as a parody it doesn’t work, because Rob isn’t self aware enough or skilled enough to pull it off convincingly. So you’re just left with a bunch of actors going for broke in a senseless, indecipherable story that starts without warning and never goes anywhere. Everything just prods along to one unfunny outline of a sketch to the next, like the worst cast of SNL getting all of their bad ideas greenlit for the live show. “The Munsters” doesn’t reinvent the wheel nor does really understand its own roots. it just kind of exists, contributing nothing but wasted space in the over bloated Netflix queue.
Listen, I’m not saying you have to hate it as much as I did. I’m sure there are some who are going to love the hell out of whatever it is “The Munsters” wants or thinks it’s suppose to be. And that’s fine, really. I don’t begrudge someone who sees past the immense flaws to find some watchable value in something that simply didn’t work for me. For my part however, “The Munsters” is quite possibly one of the worst movie watching experiences I’ve had so far this year, and whatever purpose it set out to serve it fails. I wish I had more to tell you, but there just simply isn’t that much to say about “The Munsters” because the film itself doesn’t have much to say in the first place. And what it does say is unwatchable, and I was more proud of the the fact that I made it through to the end than whatever the fuck was actually happening in this insufferable attempt at cinema. Horror has been too damn good this year to sit through shit like this, and there are far better ways to get you in the spooky spirit. “The Munsters” is NOT the way.
Passion projects are often best realized by others than yourself, with input and multiple (and I do mean MULTIPLE) script passes by individuals far more skilled at the genre you’re trying to tackle. The fact that Rob Zombie decided to run with “The Munsters” all by himself with absolutely no one onboard to call out bad ideas makes every idea a bad one from the start, and simply never improves because there is no one there to improve it.
If only someone was there to tell Rob no. No, you shouldn’t make “The Munsters.” We’d all be better for it, and have 110 minutes of lives back.
Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars
“The Munsters” is currently streaming on Netflix. You can watch the trailer below.