Universal Monsters are some of the most iconic characters in cinema history. The films starring Frankenstein, Creature, Wolf Man, Dracula, and more have influenced not only every horror film to come after, but film in general in more ways than can be recounted here. Yet before this past February's The Invisible Man, it has been nearly impossible to get the Universal Monsters back on the screen in any meaningful way in decades. That is not for lack of trying either. So, why can't Hollywood seem to be able to get them back to their former glory?
Universal Monsters Are Iconic
For starters, there are two issues. When they make a film starring one of them, they either set it in the past or give it a modern update. When setting something in the past, it is really easy for the studio to want to tap into what made these film's special in the first place, but they then use modern filmmaking techniques to make it ridiculous. Remember The Wolf Man remake? They had Rick Baker doing the effects and still relied on CG effects instead of trusting that they could stick with 100% practical. It was jarring and made the film feel soulless. Why not give them the same or smaller budget and stick with what worked in the past?
On the other end of the spectrum is placing the story in the modern day and updating everything. Now, this worked extremely well in The Invisible Man, but setting that aside for a moment, it has never worked in the past. Just a couple years ago, when Universal tried to create a "shared universe" for the Universal Monsters and kicked it off with The Mummy, a very dumb film that featured terrible special effects and too many "franchise seeds" that has become a hallmark of modern filmmaking. There was nothing there that made it feel like anything more than a cash grab. Although it did give us one of the funniest things in the last 10 years.
Invisible Man is the Exception
What The Invisible Man was able to accomplish is kind of astounding really. It updated the concept in a fresh way, while taking advantage of the technology we have today to combine classic and modern horror for a new kind of suspense. The blueprint is there now for further Universal Monsters films. Beasts and things like Creature, Wolf Man etc. can be set in the past and for the love of everything should be 100% practical. Don't try and reinvent the wheel. None of these films should be connected MCU-style. Characters like the Invisible Man should get the modern update while still grounding the story in the spirit of the original. Use a good mix of practical and cgi in a healthy mix. But keep the stories at least similar. The Universal Monsters have maybe the most iconic origins of all-time. Stop messing with them so they get too far away from that.
Or maybe they should just leave em alone. I don't know. I love those old films so very much, it pains me that people are losing sight of how influential and ground-breaking they were. It was so much fun sitting in the theater and watching Invisible Man and realizing it wasn't a train wreck. I want that for every monster.
How would you bring the Universal Monsters back to their former glory? Let us know below.