Rob Zombie conjures campy horror prequel | Arts & Entertainment

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Rob Zombie is an interesting figure in the filmmaking world. The metal musician and director is best known for having an eye for the macabre, grotesque and downright disturbing. Famous for his horror films, “House of 1000 Corpses”, “The Devil’s Rejects” and his two “Halloween” remakes, “The Munsters” marks another intriguing entry in Zombie’s filmography. It serves as a prequel to the 1960s sitcom and film series that ran until the 1990s. “The Munsters” was released on Sept. 29, 2022, nearly 58 years from the date of the sitcom’s release.

“The Munsters” is an interesting addition to Zombie’s filmography. This is his first film released directly to a streaming service and his first PG-rated film. Overall, it is a mixed bag. There are some fun family-friendly horror elements that showcase Zombies’ eye for horror. However, the extremely campy nature of the film and a grating performance by Sheri Moon Zombie made the film hard to get through at times. 

Richard Blake (Dr. Wolfgang), who also starred in “Barbarian”, is a standout here despite his limited screen time. His performance is over-the-top and ridiculous, but it works for what Zombie intended here. He’s scene-chewing in every single scene he is in, and it is pretty fun to watch. He’s playing a stereotypical mad scientist and fully commits to the bit.

I loved the scene transitions that Zombie decided to use. Nearly every scene had a fun overlay transition. These transitions range from lightning bolts, spiders, dripping blood and castle gates to hearts. It was a fun aspect of the film that left me waiting to see what was going to come next. 

The makeup effects and costuming are genuinely great here. All of the monsters in the film have some absolutely great, practically-made makeup effects. One particular creature looks exactly like the iconic horror character, Nosferatu; the makeup on it looked grotesquely brilliant.

Sheri Moon Zombie (Lily Munster), wife of Rob Zombie, is simply bad throughout the film. Many critics of Rob Zombie criticize his constant casting of her in his films, and I understand why here. She is noticeably bad. In a film full of purposefully odd performances, she still feels unnatural here. Most of her lines are delivered the exact same way, sounding equally strange and repetitive. 

The absolute dedication to campy humor and performances will truly make or break this film for the viewer. If you enjoy a very campy, fun horror film that puts comedy first, then you may enjoy “The Munsters”. However, if you aren’t a fan of camp humor like I am, you’ll most likely find yourself not enjoying this film and its tone. Even though Zombie’s direction is good here, his writing is not on par with the direction. Much of the dialogue comes across as corny and predictable. 

This is the type of film where I question why it exists. Were people seriously clamoring for a prequel to a 1960s sitcom over 50 years later? Is this a Rob Zombie passion project? If I had to assume, I’d choose the latter given Zombie’s attention to detail. The overall look of the characters and recreation of older styles of filmmaking were nice touches that prove that Zombie has a love for this franchise.

For better or worse, I can see this being a good stepping stone to horror for younger children or anyone who likes a more tame spooky film. I can see fans of films such as “Hocus Pocus”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show“ and “Goosebumps” enjoying this. Though “The Munsters” is technically a horror film, the PG-rating and general lack of horrifying content lead to a viewing experience that can satisfy even the most horror-hesitant. 

Overall, “The Munsters” is a film that hinges completely on your enjoyment of campy humor and the original sitcom. Zombie’s dedication to recreating the feel of the 1960s through editing, set design and lighting is a nice touch, but a bad performance by Sheri Moon Zombie, poor writing/dialogue and a tone that doesn’t land really kill the film. I simply could not get into this one. 4 out of 10.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.