Anghus Houvouras on what we can expect from a shared Universal Monsters universe…
The franchise wars continue. Every studio is rummaging through their intellectual property library looking for anything they can turn into a multi-picture franchise or a shared cinematic universe. Enter Universal Studios with their announcement this week that their most famous Monsters will be rolled out into new movies and the potential is there for them to cross over into one another’s stories, like the Monster version of The Avengers or the X-Men.
PRO: It’s a fun concept
The Universal Monsters have always been a favorite of mine, so the idea of seeing them paired together cinematically is an interesting one. There are some potentially excellent movies that could come out of this financially motivated manuever. My first thoughts harkened back to great, old black and white Universal Monster movies like The Wolfman vs. Dracula. Old school Monster movies were fun and unpretentious. The idea of Dracula and Doctor Frankenstein facing off is something I could get behind. The Phantom of the Opera could be your dark anti-hero forced to save the streets of the city from the scourge of the Wolfman. In the right hands, there’s so much potential to the concept of a shared world where all the Monsters exist.
That’s a pretty strong ‘Pro’, but then I start to think about the attempts Hollywood has already made in this particular milieu.
Stephanie Meyer’s shitty books became shitty movies that turned Vampires and Werewolves into emo teen angst morons. The movies that gave us sparkling vampires and Kristen Stewart’s lack of emoting was a strong blow to the credibility of any monster vs. monster project and with the success of that franchise there’s a real chance we could see the Hot Topic version of the Phantom of the Opera or a Bride of Frankenstein movie that’s more romantic comedy than horror film.
In the early 2000’s Underworld brought us the bastard love child of Vampires, Werewolves, and the Matrix in a menage a trois that could only be described as ‘messy’. While not nearly as dopey as the Twilight film, the Underworld series was still kind of silly. Harmless fun that quickly deteriorated into direct-to-dvd style shenanigans.
CON: Stephen Sommer’s Van Helsing
Remembers Universal’s last attempt at a shared universe for their famous Monsters? That didn’t exactly go well. In fact, you could call Van Helsing ‘sensory sandpaper’ and I doubt you’d get much pushback. Universal’s track record for this sort of thing isn’t very good, at least, not in the last 60 years. Who’s to say it couldn’t get worse? Oh God, it could get worse.
PRO: The Monster Squad
“Wolfman has nards!” This movie was aces when you were eight. A bunch of kids fighting some classic Monsters. It was like taking the best parts of The Goonies and mashing it up with some classic horror icons. Is it tragic that the only good Monster Mash-Up I can think of is Monster Squad. That’s a pretty strong declaration about the failure of this concept.
The evidence is piling up against the idea that this thing is going to turn out good. Successful? Maybe. God knows Twilight made a fortune churning out some of the most putrid bile to hit the silver screen this century. I’m hoping they get this right but history seems to be indicating that audiences might be in for an uphill battle.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.