It's the Booze Talkin': Universal Monsters going action? Wrong move!

It’s safe to assume nearly every fan of horror has, at the very least, a partial historical knowledge and admiration of the Universal Monsters. Even when I was young and filled with images of Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, I still had a mad respect for FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, THE WOLF MAN and so many others. To this day, both DRACULA and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN rank incredibly high on my genre movie favorites. Even still, I was very excited early on to hear that Universal would once again be raising the coffin lid and bringing these classic monsters to life. Of course with some recent news, at what cost will that be?

As much as it originally thrilled me to see a return to these classic beasties, we’ve had some rather disheartening updates on the project. During a roundtable discussion, Universal studio head Donna Langley announced that they would be reintroducing the characters to a contemporary audience in present day. I’d be okay with that if done right. However, in that same discussion she offered up the fact that they would “take it out of the horror genre.” What?!? So you are going to take these iconic monsters and take out the very thing that made them classics? Is this a massive problem with anybody else?!?

Of course this idea is not a new one. As recently as I, FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA UNTOLD and as far back as DRACULA 2000 and THE MUMMY franchise – probably farther - this has been a sometimes successful recipe. And lest we forget, there is always the “classic” feature VAN HELSING – and yes I am being sarcastic on the “classic” part because that flick just sucked. I’m rarely a fan of this type of genre-swapping in horror. Even with THE MUMMY films - which found a pretty huge audience - the idea of a CGI loaded monster based action flick never appealed to me. I’d prefer a few scares in my creature features.

While we’ve seen successful and not so successful films in the action/horror crossovers, we have also been let down by movies which seemed to remain closer to the classics. The 2010 THE WOLFMAN – directed by Joe Johnston – and Kenneth Branagh’s FRANKENSTEIN (1994) both attempted to return to scares with mixed results. Even still, it was far easier to appreciate the gothic atmosphere that came with both of these films. Then there is Francis Ford Coppola’s well-regarded DRACULA from 1992, a film that garnered critical and box office success. Neither a straight return to genre, nor the action heavy, family friendly, monster flick seems to have had truly a lasting impact. Thus this horror removal makes little sense.

I firmly believe that there are still legitimate frights in a classic vampire or werewolf tale. It would be a much more satisfying experience to see actual horror as opposed to some lame action-set-piece. My main problem with attempting to create some sort of monster franchise minus horror is the frustrating lack of respect for what made these flicks great. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but with the right script and a director willing to return to the horror roots, I have little doubt that we could see a series of solid feature films that pay homage to the classics. One that can still manage to create a couple of goose bumps for a modern day horror crowd.

Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but I am not hip to making Universal Monster movies designed for action figures. While I’d be happy as a vampire drunk on blood to see a resurgence of some of these delightfully dark characters, I don’t want it this way. While Johnston’s THE WOLFMAN wasn’t near perfect, I appreciated the dark tone and would love to see that further expanded upon. I fully believe Universal Monsters still have a few frights in them without cheapening it in hopes to franchise the hell out of some bastardization of the original concept. If you want to bring these ghoulish creatures back to life, do it with respect to what made them popular way back when. Keep it horror!
Extra Tidbit: What are your thoughts on horror-less Universal Monster movies?



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