Last month, we saw a teaser for Rob Zombie’s modern take on The Munsters, the other monster sitcom that ran for a couple seasons in the 1960s, coinciding with The Addams Family (they both aired from 1964-1966, makes you wonder what was in the water around the studio lots at that precise moment). The Munsters—which was inspired by Charles Addams’ original Addams Family cartoons—was a little less biting, less morbid, and more accessible than The Addams Family, which is why it did better during both shows’ brief run in the mid-60s. But in the long run, The Addams Family has emerged as the cultural stalwart that gets continually reinvented, from the Barry Sonnenfeld films of the early 1990s, to the current animated films with Oscar Isaac voicing Gomez Addams and Charlize Theron voicing Morticia, to the upcoming Tim Burton Netflix series, Wednesday.
Rob Zombie’s update of The Munsters is the first real attempt to reinvent the Munsters for the modern era. A trailer dropped yesterday, and it looks, um…
Well, if I’m being generous, it looks like maybe Zombie is a fan of What We Do in the Shadows. The lighting is brighter, but the color scheme is similar to what we see on WWDITS. And if I’m being ungenerous, well, this looks terrible. Maybe in its full context, the cheesy tone won’t be so straight-up schlocky, but now my curiosity at Rob Zombie’s take on the Munsters has turned to dread. This reminds me of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s take on Dark Shadows, a supernatural primetime soap that ran from 1966-1971. The Burton-Depp film reboot in 2012 sought to recapture the Gothic tone of the original TV show, but it failed, critically and commercially. The 1991 television reboot, though, got off to a gangbusters start (only to fail when the Gulf War took over TV sets just days after the show was launched). But initially, the 1991 reboot worked, reimagining Dark Shadows as a more streamlined romantic fantasy than a monster-of-the-night soap.
That’s the key to rebooting older stories—evolution and reimagining. Art evolves, expression accelerates. You can’t recreate what was done before, it won’t translate to modern sensibilities and audience tastes. You have to reimagine how then works now. That’s what I am missing from The Munsters, that sense of reimagining. It looks like repackaging, now in Technicolor. That is not only not going to be enough, it’s probably going mean this movie is a goddamn mess. Which wouldn’t be a surprise, sometimes Zombie’s movies are messy. But YIKES, this looks rough.