In terms of Gateway Horror, it’s onerous to call a greater instance than The Munsters. Based mostly on tropes and characters from the Common Monster films, this lovable household of misfits has been entertaining audiences for nearly 60 years. That’s why it’s no shock that they’ve additionally survived quite a few makes an attempt at reboots and remakes. Whereas the most recent of those initiatives is Rob Zombie’s upcoming cinematic adaptation, there’s an often-overlooked incarnation of America’s spookiest neighbors that I believe deserves extra consideration.
Naturally, I’m referring to Bryan Fuller‘s Mockingbird Lane, a darkly humorous re-imagining of The Munsters produced by NBC.
Initially airing as a Halloween Particular again in 2012, Mockingbird Lane was really the failed Pilot episode for a proposed revival of the long-lasting sitcom, this time re-imagined as a gothic drama with a humorous twist. The essential setup stays the identical, with the Munster household transferring into their iconic mansion and coping with nosy neighbors and supernatural hijinks, however the presentation is totally completely different. Taking inspiration from Fuller’s earlier work on morbid comedies like Useless Like Me and Pushing Daisies, Mockingbird Lane tried to use a fair darker coat of paint over the normally cheerful household, taking part in round with their monstrous qualities whereas additionally updating the characters for a brand new technology.
From the opening scene, which reveals Eddie Munster (Mason Prepare dinner) in a less-cuddly model of his werewolf kind, it’s clear that Mockingbird Lane was keen to remix acquainted characters as a way to inform a extra fashionable story. Oblivious to his inherited bloodthirsty tendencies, Eddie isn’t the one one to bear an edgy makeover. Jerry O’Connell (Scream 2, Piranha 3D) takes over as a decidedly sexier Herman Munster, wanting extra like an undead mannequin than a jolly Boris Karloff knock-off. Whereas Jerry retains the character’s (fairly literal) mushy coronary heart, this model of the present sees him struggling to come back to phrases with the household’s darker facet.
Performed by Arrested Improvement favourite Portia de Rossi, Lily Munster additionally underwent a visible overhaul. Whereas Mockingbird Lane retains her characterization as a loving but fiery-tempered housewife, this model of Lily leans closely into the seductive Vampiress trope (although the costume design sadly ditches the goth-friendly outfits of Yvonne De Carlo). Lily’s niece Marilyn (Charity Wakefield) is the one character that seems to have been instantly transplanted from the unique present, full with 60s-styled mannerisms and a wardrobe to match. Paradoxically, these idiosyncrasies make her stand out alongside her misfit family members, although it’s clear that the others are disillusioned together with her “situation” as a daily human.
The household can be joined by the legendary Eddie Izzard, who turns in a extremely memorable efficiency because the wise-cracking Grandpa. Closely implied to be Depend Dracula himself (he even bakes D-shaped cookies for the neighbors), Izzard’s interpretation of the geriatric vampire merely takes Al Lewis’ sardonic character traits and dials them as much as 11, leading to probably the most entertaining character of the lot. From his gaudy outfits to his nonchalant method to bloodshed, Grandpa’s sarcastic remarks and vampiric outbursts are clearly the glue that maintain this particular collectively.
Whereas a single 40-minute episode doesn’t enable for the type of character growth that made the unique present successful, Mockingbird Lane had loads of potential for each conventional sitcom tales like coping with prejudice and household drama in addition to tongue-in-cheek homages to basic horror movies. I notably loved Herman’s fake-out introduction, which frames his silhouette like a square-headed Frankenstein’s monster solely to disclose a lightly-scarred father determine when he steps into the sunshine.
It’s a disgrace that the manufacturing didn’t enable for extra sensible results, as advanced parts like Eddie’s werewolf kind and the pet dragon reveal are depicted by way of low-budget digital imagery. It’s additionally price noting that Grandpa often shapeshifts right into a winged bat-like creature when he’s about to feed, leading to a number of situations of remarkably dated laptop graphics. There are a number of pictures of Izzard in full bat make-up, which provides to the enjoyable issue, however the distinction in high quality makes these moments much more jarring.
The areas are additionally dropped at life by way of a intelligent mixture of CGI and delightful set design, although it principally blends collectively fairly effectively. Like within the authentic present, the 1313 Mockingbird Lane residence is one thing of a personality in and of itself, with its lavish corridors and decorations meshing effectively with the particular’s colourful costumes and much more colourful characters. This provides this system a stylistic edge that we’d solely see once more when Fuller started work on NBC’s Hannibal, one other present which might adapt established characters and take them into sudden instructions.
Finally, I believe the bloated runtime is what actually retains Mockingbird Lane from reaching its full potential. This peculiar mix of horror and sitcom tropes would work significantly better in 22-minute bursts reasonably than an hour-long drama, and I believe that’s what actually killed the Pilot. It’s additionally attainable that audiences merely weren’t prepared for this explicit model of tongue-in-cheek horror on the small display screen again in 2012, with community executives complaining in regards to the extreme violence and inconsistent tone. Both manner, this might be the final time that we’d see the Munster household for practically a decade.
Even when Fuller’s method to humor isn’t your cup of tea, I believe it’s secure to say that Mockingbird Lane is among the weirdest and most loving depictions of the Munster household since their inception again within the 60s. That’s why I’d argue that it’s nonetheless price revisiting right now as a televised oddity, even when it wasn’t common sufficient to warrant a full present. Whereas I’m nonetheless excited to see Rob Zombie’s tackle the long-lasting household, I’d have beloved to look at a whole season of Fuller’s modernized Munsters, if solely to see extra of Eddie Izzard’s absurd suburban Dracula.