As I mentioned in my review for The Invisible Man, Universal Pictures has been desperate for quite some time now to resurrect their gallery of classical movie monsters. They’ve tried again and again to reinvent the wheel in hopes of appealing to a younger generation of moviegoers and each time they’ve failed to sustain any true success. That was until they handed the keys to the dark kingdom over to Blumhouse, a frequent collaborator and one of the pioneers of last decade’s horror movie renaissance.
This weekend saw the release of The Invisible Man, the first film to come of the new direction. The result is already an overwhelming success, manifesting $48.3 million worldwide off the back of an economical $7 million production budget. Hitting those kind of numbers opening weekend? Yeah, we’ll definitely be seeing more updates on the Universal monsters.
But what exactly is the studio’s next move? In a New York Times article, President of Universal Pictures Peter Cramer waived the idea of attempting yet another cinematic universe, stating that the studio’s immediate focus is on individual filmmaker-driven projects:
“We said to the filmmakers, tell us what you’re connecting to with these characters. We’re listening to any and all ideas, rather than trying to create a vast, interconnected universe.”
Cramer further specified their process:
“I wouldn’t say we issued an open invitation, but we certainly talked to filmmakers who we admire. And once we put the word out with a few producers, people started coming to us saying, hey, I’ve got this idea.”
Here are the projects we know are currently in the works and what we know about them so far:
We may not be getting a shared Avengers-style monsters movie anytime soon, but anyone disappointed by that news still has something to look forward to. According to Deadline, The Heat and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig is currently developing Dark Army. While not much is known about the project at this time, the report states that it is based off an original idea from the filmmaker and will include “characters from Universal’s classic monster library and original characters created by Feig.” The plural characters being the operative word in that quote.
More recently, Collider caught up with Feig, who dished on where he is on the film’s development:
“I wrote a draft and got thoughts from the studio, and now I’m in the middle of a rewrite on that right now, and so hopefully that’ll be my next movie. If it’s not, it’ll be the one after whatever I do next. But yeah, I’m very excited about it, too. It’s just, you want to get it right.”
The A Simple Favor director let us in on his vision for the film:
“I really want this to bring the same feeling that those old monster movies that I loved growing up watching [did]. I’m not as interested in doing a horror movie as I am in doing a true monster film. So, hopefully that will see the light of day. You never know in Hollywood these days, but I love it. I’m very excited about it. I’m excited about the characters that I’ve created and about some of the ones that I’ve been able bring over from the old movies.”
A little bit of the old mixed with a little bit of the new? Count this admittedly excitable blogger in! Leigh Whannell took a similar approach with The Invisible Man and proved that these monsters can still be scary and scary relevant in 2020. Hopefully Dark Army follows down a similar path.
The Invisible Woman
If you caught The Invisible Man recently, then you might have assumed that Universal was planning on doing an Invisible Woman movie. According to Deadline, indeed they are; however, it’s probably not what you had in mind. We learned last year that the studio is partnering with Elizabeth Banks for The Invisible Woman, which is based on an original pitch from the Pitch Perfect 2 and Charlie’s Angels director and is in no way affiliated with the Jason Blum-produced thriller currently playing in cinemas. Not much is known about the film other than Banks is reportedly starring as well as directing from a script by The Girl on the Train scribe Erin Cressida Wilson.
Dark Army isn’t the only monster mash-up Universal has up their sleeve. According to an exclusive Deadline report from earlier this year, the studio is working with Matt Stawski, a Grammy nominated music video director, on Monster Mash, an original musical film also featuring some of its iconic monsters. As per Universal’s MO, the project is based on an original conceit that Stawski pitched to be his feature directorial debut. Also like the rest of the films on this slate, story details are being kept… Under wraps (ha!).
When speaking about the classic Universal monsters, the conversation inevitably turns to Dracula. The bloodsucking horror icon is one of the most adapted fictional characters of all-time. Then there’s the more obscure R.M. Renfield, an inmate at a lunatic asylum who was thought to be suffering from delusions, but is actually a servant of Dracula. But if Universal has their way, that’s all about to change thanks to Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman), who has signed on to helm a feature film centered on the Dark Lord’s unfortunate sidekick. Based on an original idea from The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman with a screenplay from Rick and Morty scribe Ryan Ridley, Renfield will finally tell the largely untold story but set in modern times.
Untitled James Wan Project (Frankenstein?)
Not long after The Invisible Man hit theaters, reports started circulating that Universal had tapped The Conjuring and Saw director James Wan to produce an unnamed film “inspired” by their legacy lineup of monsters. Though a director has not yet been attached to the project, Supernatural scribe Robbie Thompson is set to pen the screenplay. Though the current news does not make mention of it, Variety reported late last year that Wan was attached to produce a re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Could this indeed be the mysterious monstrosity that Wan is cooking up? Only time can tell for sure.
More to Come!
Of course these are just the projects we’ve gotten wind of. There are, according to Peter Cramer himself, various projects at different stages of development based on nearly all of their infamous monsters. This is an exciting time for fans of classic horror.
Those are the films we know are currently coming down the Universal Monsters pike. What do you make of the current post-The Invisible Man slate? Do any of these projects hold your interest? If so, which ones? And did you even enjoy The Invisible Man? Sound off in the comments section below and let everyone know all your Monster outs thoughts on the matter!