Release Date(s)2022 (September 27, 2022)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Regardless of what anyone may think of Rob Zombie as a musician, he’s been divisive as a filmmaker, so when it was announced that he would be making a feature adaptation of The Munsters, most minds were made up long before the film actually went into production. The Munsters is a beloved property, even if some of that affection is the result of viewing things through nostalgia-colored glasses, and Zombie has a way of fitting everything into his own particular worldview. That’s resulted in some striking films based on original material like The Devil’s Rejects or The Lords of Salem, but it’s been a trifle more controversial with his adaptations of other works such as Halloween. Yet even in that case, there’s no denying that he did something that no other filmmaker who’s dabbled in the franchise has ever managed to do, David Gordon Green included: he took someone else’s material and made it decisively his own. So, the big question was whether or not he would do something similar with The Munsters.
As with many things in life, the answer isn’t necessarily simple. While Zombie’s films have had plenty of dark humor in them, he’s never made an outright comedy like this before, and it’s always challenging to try to do something interesting with familiar material. The first teaser for the film cleverly acknowledged that fact, first showing a recreation of the opening titles from the series, and then having Grandpa Munster (Daniel Roebuck) frankly admit, “Well, now what?” Interestingly, that clip of him is actually from near the end of the final cut, so his own question is never really answered in the film. Instead, Zombie opted to tell an origin story, explaining how Lily and Herman Munster (Sheri Moon Zombie and Jeff Daniel Phillips) got together, and how the family ended up moving from Transylvania to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. (Zombie also openly cribbed a couple of story ideas from Young Frankenstein.) That change ended up taking the material in an unexpected direction, although it’s debatable whether or not it was really necessary to do that in order to introduce the franchise to new viewers. The television series never bothered with a backstory, and that didn’t seem to bother anyone even when the show first premiered.
Unfortunately for Zombie, both the critical and the popular reaction to his version of The Munsters has been a bit uncharitable, to put it mildly. Comedy is entirely a matter of taste, but people’s expectations might have been a little misplaced in this case. The Munsters is definitely a dumb comedy, and not a particularly funny one at that. Yet the television series wasn’t exactly comedy gold, either. Viewed without the nostalgic lenses, the only real laughs that the show had are courtesy of its laugh track. Zombie’s version of The Munsters may exhibit a few of his own distinctive touches, for good or for ill, but it’s generally faithful to the dopey spirit of the original. It may lack some of the charm, but it’s no less funny. It’s just that The Munsters was never all that funny in the first place. That’s one area where Zombie probably should have broken some new ground instead.
Cinematographer Zoran Popovic captured The Munsters digitally, but there’s no information regarding the cameras, lenses, or resolutions involved. Regardless, given the low budget that was involved (and Zombie’s history with digital cinematography), it was likely finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate. The 1.78:1 image is bright and lively, with exaggerated color and contrast—perhaps a bit too much so for the Blu-ray format. Some detail is lost at both extreme ends of the contrast range, with slightly blown out highlights and crushed blacks. This is one case where a good HDR grade could have proved beneficial, if Universal had elected to provide a 4K Ultra HD version. There are also some compression issues that could have been ameliorated by a stronger encode. Rob Zombie dearly loves his grain, so his films that were captured digitally have a layer of fake grain added to them. Unfortunately, this Blu-ray struggles to keep up with it at times, with some areas of the screen breaking up into a swarming sea of noise. It happens in a variety of places, usually in the background, but for a specific example, look at some of the shots of Herman’s face when he and Lily are taking their vows. It’s a strange situation, because fake grain is basically just added noise, so in this case, the artifacts consist of unintentional noise on top of intentional noise. Still, this is still a decent presentation overall, and it’s certainly in line with Zombie’s intentions despite any flaws.
Primary audio is offered in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles. (There’s also an alternate Spanish 5.1 DTS available.) Befitting the low-fi aesthetic of the film, it tends to be focused on the front channels, although there are some ambient effects in the surrounds like thunder and rain. There’s a decent quantity of deep bass—Herman’s thumpings are really emphasized here in a way that the vintage television show just couldn’t match. The music sounds fine, and the dialogue is always clear—although whether or not that’s a good thing is a matter of personal taste.
Universal’s Blu-ray release of The Munsters comes with a slipcover, but it doesn’t provide a Digital code. The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Rob Zombie
- The Munsters: A Return to Mockingbird Lane(HD – 61:49)
Zombie definitely takes everything that he does seriously, even a comedy like The Munsters, and he applies the same consideration to his commentary tracks. He’s a genuine student of film history, so he was thrilled to be essentially making a Universal monster movie, and even picked out his personal favorite of the classic Universal logos to use for the opening. He put real thought into all the choices that he made for the film, regardless of how they may have turned out. He waits until the closing credits to explain the one thing that everyone has been wondering: how he became involved with the project in the first place. Believe it or not, he’s been in and out of the orbit of The Munsters for nearly two decades, ever since he made House of 1000 Corpses for Universal.
A Return to Mockingbird Lane is a loosely organized making-of featurette that’s really more of a fly-on-the-wall collection of behind-the-scenes footage than an actual documentary. That’s not a bad thing, though, as it’s often more interesting than the typical compilation of interviews would have been. It covers things like makeup tests, costuming, location scouting, construction of the sets, and more. It’s worth a look even if you’re not a fan of the film.
To be fair, that describes most people who have seen The Munsters. It doesn’t exactly have a loyal fan following at this point, and whether or not it eventually develops a cult of its own remains to be seen. This Blu-ray certainly won’t change many minds, but the limited extras do have some value, and aside from a few minor flaws, it looks and sounds pretty good. The Munsters is hardly a misunderstood classic, but it’s not quite a total disaster, either. Actually, that might be the formula for eventual cult success after all.
- Stephen Bjork