The Munsters remake just wrapped filming in Budapest a few days ago. A colorful spin on the 1960s series by director Rob Zombie will start ...-production phase and is expected to premiere this year. Rob Zombie is known for his career as a horror filmmaker, and movies of his like House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects certainly don’t have a shortage of gore and disturbing violence. So, when it was announced that his new project would be PG, many people were surprised.
The Munsters was a famous comedic show from the 1960s that portrays the home life of a family of monsters. This type of show, horror themed comedies, was very popular at the time, from The Addams Family to the soap opera Dark Shadows. Hit series from that period are making a comeback with various remakes, such as Netflix and Tim Burton’s Addams Family reboot series starring Jenna Ortega, Wednesday, and the new Scooby-Doo series Velma by HBO Max and Mindy Kaling. These new projects, unlike the new The Munsters movie, have adults as a targeted audience, even if the source material is PG-rated.
Rob Zombie has a very particular style of directing and the stories he likes to tell. Here is what his Munsters movie might look like, taking into consideration the director, the PG rating, and the source material.
The source material, the original series, is family-friendly like much pre-1980s television. While TV Parental Guidelines weren’t established until 1997, the ’60s show would likely have received a soft PG rating (“Parental guidance is suggested – Some materials may not be suitable for children”). The naïveté of the show and the family-friendly comedy paired with its use of classic horror tropes was what helped make the series stand out back in the 1960s.
So, taking that element out of the new movie would be a bad decision altogether; it would either become a cynical parody or just most likely wouldn’t work. And yet, there are still some core elements of the show that may be not suitable for children, since it uses some classic scary imagery and scenarios (haunted houses, vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster), all of which made The Munsters unique but may be scary and creep out a kid under 10 years old, the same way Courage the Cowardly Dog was aimed at kids but was sometimes terrifying.
Remakes usually have a pre-established audience: the fans of the original show or movie. Because of that, remakes, especially ones of original works beloved by various generations, have to be careful about changes and how some elements are adapted. That is particularly true when adapting works for a very different time period.
The Munsters premiered two decades after the Universal’s Monsters were in their prime, resurrecting them again for a new audience (something which helped lead to more Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolf Man movies in the late ’60s and ’70s). There are obvious connections between the movies and the show. The director of the new remake, Rob Zombie, is a huge fan of these classic monsters, and it seems like Universal is trying to resurrect their monsters once again (with the failed Mummy remake, the acclaimed Invisible Man movie, and the upcoming Renfield with Nicolas Cage as Dracula and The Wolfman with Ryan Gosling). This is only the start of Zombie’s connections to the source material.
Rob Zombie’s name is usually associated with hardcore gore in his horror movies. How he is influenced by older horror movies without gore, however, is already present in his work. Even before he was a film director and started to direct his band’s music videos, his taste and aesthetic were already there.
The director has been prominently influenced by classic Halloween imagery and the theatricality that comes from classic horror movies, regarding the acting, lighting, props, and bombastic music. He uses a lot of framing and shots that were popular in the ’50s and ’60s horror TV shows, like The Munsters. There are, of course, some clear R-rated homages, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on his first feature film, and his filmography is always paying tribute to ’70s horror that was often much more twisted. But there is no denying that the director has borrowed inspiration from source material similar to The Munsters his whole career, even if that is not as apparent as other homages.
Zombie has used his love for the classic Universal Monsters in his movies as well. The director also uses humor throughout his works, no matter how grotesque. Usually, it is a more satirical and dark kind of humor than the one used in the show, but it still shows his ability to blend both genres.
He is a bold director, and one of his creative decisions for the project certainly stands out: the movie will be in color. This adds another layer to the new remake, as people were accustomed to seeing these characters (and even Universal Monsters) in black and white. A colorful version of The Munsters will be only the first of many peculiar creative decisions, and based on the many set photos from the movie, Zombie seems to be having a ton of fun making them.
After looking at Zombie’s body of work, it becomes more evident why he is the director of this project, even if a PG Rob Zombie movie appears to be an odd choice at first. This wouldn’t be the first of his films to have received quite some resistance from an audience, but he continues to prove naysayers wrong film after film, and definitely has hardcore fans who will be flocking to theaters to see the film alongside families exploring his vision for the first time.
Zombie is not the first director to try a hand at a more family-friendly story after coming from an adult-orientated background. Famous directors have dabbled their feet into G and PG stories amidst doing R-rated movies. Scorsese is a great example: he directed Hugo in between Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street. Zack Snyder directed Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole between Watchmen and Sucker Punch.
The Wachowski Sisters also had a go at family-friendly stories with Speed Racer, between The Matrix Revolutions and Cloud Atlas. Even the director of the Mad Max movies, George Miller, made Babe: Pig in City and Happy Feet before directing Mad Max: Fury Road. These are only a few examples of successful family-friendly movies that were done by directors who usually make R-rated films, so Rob Zombie is in good company.