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It was in March of 2020 when rumors began to suggest that Rob Zombie, helmer of some of the weirdest horror movies in recent memory, was going to write and direct a movie based on The Munsters - the creepy and kooky 1960s sitcom not called The Addams Family. I bet you never expected that those rumors would one day be confirmed as the truth.
Well, to be perfectly honest, I had my doubts that a new interpretation of lab-created creature Herman, half-vampire Lily, and the rest of the beloved family of fright from the rock star-turned-filmmaker would actually happen. However, to be even more honest, the idea of Rob Zombie doing a Munsters movie actually makes a lot of sense to me and even excites me a bit. Now, at risk of sounding crazier than some of the characters in other Rob Zombie movies, allow me to explain.
The Munsters Is Due For A Remake, Something Rob Zombie Has Tried Pretty Well
I suppose it was inevitable that we would start off on a controversial note, and for more than one reason, too.
I have always admired The Munsters (my fiancée and I dressed as Herman and Lily on Halloween 2020) and would hate to see the legacy of Ed Haas and Norm Lieberman’s classic comedy tarnished by an unworthy reboot. However, I do not believe such a thing could ever happen since, after a number of attempted Munsters reboots (most recently with 2012’s failed Mockingbird Lane pilot), the series remains a lasting cultural phenomenon. Thus, I am open to giving a new take on the concept another chance and especially if in the hands of someone like Rob Zombie, who gave remaking Halloween a decent try... right?
Okay, admittedly, I, like many others, have my issues with the 2007 retelling of John Carpenter’s genre-defining 1978 slasher (and one of the best horror movies ever), especially for its concerning attempt at humanizing Michael Myers, its absence of any real suspense, and overall needlessness, to be frank. Yet, even I would still argue that Rob Zombie’s Halloween stands on its own as an intriguing attempt at reinventing the story with an all new, daringly exploitative tone, even if I personally do not believe it works as an honorable tribute to what makes the original a classic. I do, however, believe that Zombie has a firm idea of what makes the original Munsters a classic.
The Munsters Are Social Outcasts, Something Rob Zombie Understands Well
The gimmick behind The Munsters is that each member of the modern, suburban family is based on a specific figure of traditional horror. Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) is a science experiment a la Frankenstein’s Monster, Lily Munster (Yvonne DeCarlo) is a vampire whose father - referred to as Grandpa (Al Lewis) - is literally Count Dracula, and young Eddie Munster is a werewolf. For whatever reason, Lily’s niece Marilyn Munster (Beverly Owen and, later, Pat Priest) is the only one who acts and appears normal by society’s standards while the rest have a very difficult time fitting in.
The Munsters’ struggle with social isolation is key as to why I believe Rob Zombie’s movie could really work as that theme is prevalent throughout most of his filmography. Just take a look at his signature Firefly trilogy (House of 1000 Corpses from 2003, 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, and the 2019 Shudder exclusive 3 From Hell) - all starring the late Sid Haig - and you will see that, at their core, these are all stories of people rejected by the masses, but treat that aspect of themselves as a badge of honor, just as The Munsters do. Of course, the biggest difference is that The Munsters (in addition to actually being likable) are not so aware of how strange they are, which is where the comedy comes from.
The Munsters Is Dark Comedy, Something Rob Zombie Has Done Well
I think we have spent too much time being disturbed - or, at least, bewildered - by Rob Zombie’s work that we often forget he does have a sense of humor. I mean, it is certainly a wickedly morbid sense of humor, as best exemplified through Sid Haig’s performance as the clownish Captain Spaulding, the pure insanity of his 2009 animated film The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, and his insane fake trailer for Werewolf Women of the S.S., featuring his friend Nicolas Cage, in Grindhouse from 2007.
That being said, anybody who calls themselves a fan of The Munsters should realize that dark comedy was always the life blood of that series and, hopefully, would be able to understand and accept if it got a bit darker for Rob Zombie’s movie. Besides, with how boldly exploitative horror-comedy movies have become, it would only makes sense that the Munsters’ adventures get a little bloodier than they may have appeared in grayscale, which brings me to my next and final point.
The Munsters Have Never Been Scary, But Scary Is Something Rob Zombie Can Do Well
When you think of The Munsters, you think of a bunch of harmless, friendly adults at a Halloween party who take cosplay very seriously, but not as the true nature of their characters as depicted by traditional horror lore. If the creators went by the book, Herman would be a feral beast slowly struggling to be human (which is isn’t too far off from his behavior in retrospect); Lily, Grandpa, and Eddie would have insatiable appetites that make them a danger to others, and Marilyn (whose condition is more unique) would probably be a homebody with a very low opinion of herself based on her family’s standards of acceptance. Most importantly, it might have actually been enough to scare viewers.
I, for one, would love to see a version of The Munsters that actually does have the ability to scare by honoring the macabre nature of the original iconography the characters are based on and presenting it in a more bizarre and extreme way than ever before. Now, to be clear, I would hope that Rob Zombie, as a lifelong lover of the original series, would realize the importance preserving the series’ fun and playful tone amid the more grim aesthetic he might incorporate. However, when it comes the family’s pet dragon, Spot, I say he should have all the freedom in the world to make that beast as disturbing as possible.
Even with all the reasons I have presented here, I could still understand why some people may not be on board with the idea of this reboot and I would be lying if I said I was not at least a little skeptical. Yet, Rob Zombie said in his Instagram post confirming his involvement with The Munsters movie that he has been chasing this project for 20 years, which should be enough of a reason to trust that he is taking this opportunity very seriously. Plus, as a filmmaker as undeniably unique and passionate for the horror genre as he is, it would be wrong not to give him a shot and see what 1313 Mockingbird Lane looks like through his eyes.