As most genre fans know, horror had a huge year in 2013. Texas Chainsaw 3D, Mama, The Purge and The Conjuring did bang-up business at the box office and horror was going strong on television with The Walking Dead cemented itself as one of the biggest shows on the tube and American Horror Story: Coven earning 17 Primetime Emmy nominations. Over the last few months there have been many stories coming out of Universal Studios regarding their future horror endeavors. News has continued to roll out over the summer regarding Alex Kurtzman spearheading Universal’s upcoming “monster mash” of sorts aiming to bring all of the classic Universal Monsters together in an Avengers-style film with Kurtzman and Fast and Furious go-to-guy Chris Morgan steering the ship. But that’s not all Universal, the home of Karloff’s Mummy and Frankenstein’s iconic creature, has in store for horror hounds.
Universal is also moving forward with adapting Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles for the screen (Kurtzman overseeing that, as well) and has struck a crazy, 10-year business deal with Emmy-winning producer Jason Blum and his low budget horror powerhouse Blumhouse Productions. On the fringe of horror are thrillers like the upcoming As Above/ So Below and adventure film Skull Island which is an off-shoot of King Kong (both films produced with Legendary Pictures) and, of course, Jurassic World, the long awaited fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise.
So what does this all mean? Why are we talking about this? As a genre fan, I’m thrilled at the idea of a major studio investing — and I mean really investing — in horror. Much like the superhero sub-genre that broke into the mainstream before it, I believe that genre films have incredible commercial possibilities, a fact best demonstrated by the popularity of horror on TV, where it is regularly consumed by audiences on a weekly basis. And, aside from Universal, no one else seems to really be getting in on the horror game. With the exception of New Line once again serving as the official house of horror for Warner Bros., christened by the decision to move production on Cary Fukunaga’s two-part feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s It from WB proper to New Line earlier this year, most of the major studios like Disney, Sony and Fox appear to be banking on superheroes and comic book adaptations to make them their cash for the foreseeable future.
As excited as I am to see a major studio banking on what has long been the red-headed stepchild of cinema, I do have some questions about what’s going on over at the home of The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Psycho and Jaws.
The modern day retellings of the classic monsters doesn’t sit right with me. I would argue the reason The Wolfman reboot starring Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins didn’t work for moviegoers a few years back wasn’t because it was a story set in days long past, but because the movie was a bit of a mess and poor decisions were made trying to modernize a movie (they really CGI’d over a Rick Baker Wolfman design?!) that isn’t meant to be modern. Even Stephen Sommers’ blockbuster franchise The Mummy was technically a period piece in the vein of Raiders of the Lost Ark and audiences didn’t seem to have a problem with that. Meanwhile, in Transylvania, our old friend Dracula is about to reemerge this October with Dracula Untold, the origin story of the iconic character. As Nerdist’s own Eric Diaz recently pointed out, where does this movie fit in with the monster plan? Are we to think that the studio is going to reboot a reboot before it even comes out?
At the end of the day, do we really want to see an Avengers-style monster mash-up in the first place? If all of these re-imaginings really are going to be modern day takes on the classic Universal Monsters, how does that work? The Wolfman is the Hulk (you won’t like him when he’s angry) and there is some hot version of The Bride of Frankenstein wearing a white leather dress with crazy hair firing a machine gun? Or maybe the monsters will be like the mutants in X-Men, fighting to save the world from one another? It’s not that I don’t have complete faith in Kurtzman and Morgan, believe me, I do, but I just don’t see a modern day 2016 (when Kurtzman’s adaptation of The Mummy is scheduled to be released) situation where audiences can accept Imhotep wreaking havoc on New York City. But maybe I’m crazy! It wouldn’t be the first time.
What do you all think, monster nuts? Are you excited about Universal sinking major cash into their horror properties? What do you think about modern day classic Universal Monsters? Tell us what you think in the comments below!