Universal May Just Deliver New Monster Classics
by Mirabelle Peabody
In recent years we’ve witnessed the hugely successful re-invention of the Marvel franchise with the introduction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Films are now intertwined with each other, although not titled concurrently. There have been hints of this for at least a few years; some may not have noticed that Universal had something similar on its mind when they announced the DarkUniverse in a tweet.
— #DarkUniverse (@darkuniverse) May 22, 2017
Tom Cruise would be The Mummy, Johnny Depp The Invisible Man, Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster and Russell Crowe would do double-duty as both Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. That sounded pretty impressive on the face of it, but following the failure of The Mummy reboot, the Dark Universe idea suddenly slipped into the shadows.
It was arguably best that the plan didn’t come to fruition back in 2017; after all, there are certainly more deserving characters and movies that would fit better like Horror of Dracula. After all, if you consider the two titles in isolation there’s no way The Mummy would be more revered than Dracula, although the Mummy is a classic in its own right with the original movie appearing just a year after Dracula first surfaced.
There is still an opportunity though that Universal could grab with both hands. Just look at some of those aforementioned classic characters. Frankenstein and Dracula are massive and are synonymous with horror, there’s not anyone who doesn’t know who they are.
Add to that the availability of the classics on streaming platforms including on the YouTube Fear: The Home of Horror channel, which has been showing classic Universal Monster movies since January for free. The presence of these characters is constant; they are always relevant in popular culture. Moreover, they cut across other genres of entertainment, with Dracula popping up on one of the most popular video games, Castlevania for example. Dracula appeared in Symphony of the Night; it was even adapted into an award winning Netflix series and it doesn’t stop there. Dracula and Frankenstein-based slots are common across slot sites, and Dr. Jekyll even makes an appearance in the “Dr. Jekyll Goes Wild” game hosted on Gala Casino.
Alongside the digital and gaming platforms there’s now Universal’s streaming service, Peacock, which promises to keep things firmly in your mind’s eye. On Peacock you will find originals such as Bride of Frankenstein and the original 1933 version of The Invisible Man and more.
Last year saw the revival of the Invisible Man and even in a stop start year hit by the pandemic, worldwide box office receipts for the Leigh Whannel directed movie stood at over $140m. It demonstrates the hunger for reboots of these classics and proves that there really isn’t a need for there to be a thread linking them together. Nor do they don’t need to command a massive budget to make a successful movie. The Invisible Man which was made for a relatively moderate $7m; compare that to the $120m+ outlay on The Mummy which made $409m worldwide.
Next up for a modern day reboot is Dracula, in which Karyn Kusama will work with Blumhouse productions on the classic title. It is believed that it will be made with a similarly low to moderate budget much like it’s successful stablemate, The Invisible Man. In an interesting, twist there will also be a cover of the blood thirsty legend directed by Chloe Zhao which will come under the Universal banner.
It’s a truly exciting time for fans of the genre, The manner in which these classic movies are being reproduced seems to be a true nod to their history and their heritage. Very interesting indeed.