Once upon a time back in 2014, the hot new trend for studios was finding an opportunity to exploit a cinematic universe modeled after the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Universal saw potential with their legacy of monsters that included The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Dracula. It was a good idea in theory, but long story short, both attempts to turn the Universal Monsters into some kind of superhero franchise blew up in their faces with the almost completely forgotten Dracula Untold (2014) and the misguided Tom Cruise action vehicle The Mummy (2017). The latter film debuted with the news that Universal was plotting the Dark Universe, an interconnected world where the Universal monsters would exist in the same world and fight crimes together, I presume? The plans were unclear outside of the fact that Universal wanted Johnny Depp to play the Invisible Man and Javier Bardem to play Frankenstein’s Monster.
It was certainly a risky endeavor, and while it would have been interesting to see how those ideas played out, The Mummy was such a disaster with both audiences and critics, that Universal quietly shelved all other plans for the Dark Universe.
Now that we’re living in a Post-Endgame world, most studios are retiring their plans for cinematic universes it seems and returning to more traditional forms of franchises. Universal very smartly has handed the reigns of the new Universal horror movies to Blumhouse, the production company that is revolutionizing Hollywood with its strategy of low-budget horror films that appeal to both audiences and critics and either make their budget back modestly or have huge success at the box office.
Blumhouse’s new approach to the franchise seems to be singular stories that update the classic tales to a modern setting. With their first entry, The Invisible Man, that strategy already seems to be paying off in spades. Written and directed by Leigh Whannel and starring Elisabeth Moss, the film smartly reworks the story to focus on the abused wife of an unstable genius who finds a way to turn invisible and torture her even after she escapes his clutches. With a reported budget of $7M-$10M, the modest horror outing is a huge success in its opening weekend alone, already making $49M for its global earnings and is projecting a total of $100M. Due to this success, it looks like we’ll be getting many more small-budget versions of classic Universal monster movies. I for one couldn’t be more thrilled by this. Blumhouse Productions truly understands what makes modern horror works, while still showing reverence to what made these stories special when they first premiered on the silver screen. I can’t wait to see what filmmakers are given free-reign for beloved characters like The Bride of Frankenstein or The Wolf Man.
Who would you like to see behind the camera for your favorite Universal Monster? Personally, I’d love to see the Bride of Frankenstein get her own story with Ana Lily Amirpour writing and directing.