The Munsters

The Munsters poster

His name synonymous with horror and shock rock across four decades since his breakthrough in the early nineties, as a child Rob Zombie was a fan of Alice Cooper, later becoming a friend and collaborator of the master of theatrical presentations of horror anthems which influenced Zombie’s own live shows filled with costumes, masks and pyrotechnics and his videos paying homage to the icons of horror.

Zombie’s debut solo single following the disbandment of White Zombie named Dragula for the vehicle driven by Herman Munster, despite his parallel career as a film director having launched with the extremity of House of 1,000 Corpses it has taken him over two decades to return to where he came from with The Munsters, a sideways step from the uncompromising darkness of Lords of Salem, 31 and Three from Hell but one which should not surprise those familiar with the breadth of Zombie’s unconventional career.

The Munsters; alone in her boudoir, Lily Gruesella (Sheri Moon Zombie) waits and dreams.

His previous horror films transgressive and beyond the mainstream, featuring extreme violence, often against atypical victims, such as the middle-aged maternal figure of The Devil’s Rejects, stripped naked and then murdered, an uncomfortable sight for audiences simultaneously blasé about the slaughter of teenagers, he has acknowledged and included elements of comedy and camp in much of his work, sometimes confusing viewers who feel betrayed by such deviations from expectation.

The Munsters is no exception to this, based on the sitcom of the same name which only ran for two seasons from 1964 to 1966 but which has remained in the public consciousness through reruns and revivals, most recently Bryan Fuller’s Mockingbird Lane, with Zombie reuniting with his regular troupe of actors including Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Richard Brake and Daniel Roebuck to realise his off-kilter prequel to the show.

The Munsters; Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips) on the laboratory slab.

Opening in the Carpathian Mountains, in her moated castle under the full moon Lily Gruesella (Zombie) pines for companionship while elsewhere Doctor Henry August Wolfgang (Brake) and his assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia) raid tombs for body parts to make the perfect man; an oversight results in the brain of a recently deceased stand-up comedian being used rather than the brain of his also recently deceased astrophysicist twin brother, and so Herman Munster (Phillips) is created.

A well-meaning but moronic lumbering punster who is a crushing disappointment to his maker, Herman is rejected by Wolfgang following a disastrous television debut but while it wasn’t the plan the man of many parts could have been made for Lily, who despite her father the Count (Roebuck) regarding him as “a stitch-job from the wrong side of the cemetery” swiftly agrees to marry him not for advantage, status or money but simply for love.

The Munsters; the newlyed Herman and Lily Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips and Sheri Moon Zombie).

Less a horror film than a Hallowe’en carnival of costume shot in luminous greens, blues, pinks and purples which celebrates all that is ghastly and ghoulish, with fog cascading down the castle steps there is more than a bit of the rock video about The Munsters and with little plot to anchor the narrative it feels as disjointed as pre-assembly Herman, but with the cast having a gleeful time, none more than Sylvester McCoy as Igor, it somehow lurches forward down a path strewn with bad jokes.

The progenitor show originally broadcast almost concurrently with The Addams Family, while there were parallels between the two they were always distinctly different creatures, the foundation of Charles Addams’ dark cartoons more knowing and cynical than The Munsters who were at heart an all-American family who just happened to be monsters, something Zombie has preserved rather than abandoned, his film faithful in tone and intent and making no apology for celebrating the unrepentant outsiders who somehow found each other, Herman and Lily deserving happiness as much as Gomez and Morticia or Jack and Sally.

The Munsters will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download from Monday 9th January

The Munsters; the Munster family find their home on Mockingbird Lane.



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