‘The Munsters’: Rob Zombie on Giving Fans the Prequel They’ve Been Waiting For
When The Munsters first debuted on television, it was just four months before Robert Cummings was born in a sleepy New England town in January 1965. It wouldn’t take long, however, for the boy who would become Rob Zombie to discover America’s first family of fright and fun. The series had a profound influence on the young artist who, in the 57 years since, has topped the music charts as a solo artist and with his band White Zombie, and conquered the box office with his record-setting Halloween in 2007. Echoes of The Munsters can be seen and heard throughout Zombie’s records, videos, and films, including the hit single “Dragula,” so it makes sense why Universal teamed with him for the studio’s new take on Herman, Lily, and company with the 2022 film The Munsters, which landed on Blu-ray, DVD, and video on demand Sept. 27 and will premiere later this fall on Netflix. ReMIND caught up with Zombie and cast members to discuss the ambitious new PG love story.
The film is somewhat of a prequel story, set prior to the original series, and follows bad lab experiment Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips) as he courts Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie), trying to win her heart and hand despite the best efforts of her vampire father (Daniel Roebuck) to derail the relationship.
“Herman and Lily are a great couple, but we have only seen them as parents,” Zombie shares. “I wanted to see how they met and how this love story began. To me, it makes more sense to try and expand these iconic characters rather than just do a carbon copy. We already have the classic show, and it is amazing, so I figured I would take the vibe of that and go different directions.”
For Phillips, playing the role of Herman was a dream come true. He still remembers when Zombie brought up his idea for the film. “It was about a dozen years ago after The Lords of Salem, and I remember Rob going, ‘Hey, this is what I am trying to do,’ and I had to pull over, almost hyperventilating. I was so honored that he thought of me and trusted me.”
Phillips stepped into the famous platform boots with the utmost respect for the one who started it all. “We wanted to pay homage to Fred Gwynne’s mannerisms and that infamous laugh,” relates the frequent Zombie collaborator. “We got the right amount in this film to honor his iconic character, and yet I don’t feel like I was saddled with trying to do some impersonation.”
“Jeff brought a goofy but lovable quality to Herman,” Zombie adds. “Herman is really a newly born monster.”
“Newly born” is a reference to a key element not previously explored in the original series. Here, Herman’s creation happens at the hands of Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake). While Wolfgang is among some faces new to the mythology, Zombie has also brought a number of side characters back from the original series, including the Tin Can Man (voiced by Eddie Munster actor Butch Patrick), Zombo, and several others.
Herman’s paramour is played by Zombie’s spouse and real-life muse Sheri Moon Zombie, of which the director gushes, “Sheri brought a sweet innocence of a young Lily looking for Mister Right, although she is still a cool, groovy vampire chick.”
“Nobody works harder than Sheri Moon Zombie,” proclaims Roebuck, veteran actor, and Zombie’s Grandpa. “She is the sweetest human being, and I think people are going to be blown away by the depth of her performance.”
Roebuck, an avid fan of all things monster, is perhaps best known for his eight-year stint on Matlock, and he had no idea who Rob Zombie was when the two met at a collectibles store years ago where they were both shopping for model kits. Laughs Roebuck, “I was there with my friend, and Rob came in and my pal turned and said, ‘Mr. Zombie! What an honor!’ I literally said, ‘What did you call this guy?’” A proper introduction followed, and a fast friendship blossomed into the pair working together on films such as The Devil’s Rejects and Halloween II (2009).
This is an excerpt from Remind’s The Munsters Collector’s Issue. To read the full story, purchase the issue, available for order online now.
The Munsters, Movie Premiere, Tuesday, September 27, Netflix