If someone were to ask you to name the canonical, official monsters and you were forced to omit the giant-kind who smash buildings, you’d probably be able to come up with a pretty short list. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolf-Man, and The Mummy. Well, add in The Invisible Man (which is hard, because where is he?) and the Bride of Frankenstein, and you’ve got a new line-up of super-monsters being re-launched by Universal Pictures.
Alex Kurtzman (of Star Trek screenwriting fame) has been tapped to helm this project with Chris Morgan of The Fast and the Furious. The first reboot—or maybe it should be called a re-jolt—will feature The Mummy and is scheduled for release in 2016. The main idea here is to create a shared universe between these various classic monsters in the style of what Marvel has done with The Avengers. Historically, the Universal monsters have done this before, insofar as Frankenstein(‘s monster) fought the Wolf-Man and Dracula in various monster mash-up movies.
Interestingly, both the Mummy and The Wolf-Man don’t have the same kind of literary ties as Frankenstein, Dracula, or the Invisible Man. Often believed to have been novels by the public at large, much of the mythology of both The Mummy and The Wolf-Man was created by the screenwriters for the Universal films. Further, in their black-and-white Universal Monster guises, The Mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein are much older than the Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Wolf-Man. While the former three had films in the 1930’s, the Gill-Man and the Wolf-Man weren’t around until the 50’s.
These monsters have also teamed-up before, in the 1987 film The Monsters Squad, all about a group of kids who hunted these exact monsters. The probability of a culminating film in this new continuity titled “The Monster Squad” is very unlikely, it would rock.
Notably, similar quasi-literary team-ups also include Alan Moore’s comic series, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all about Victorian characters like The Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, and others getting together to stop various crimes. A more-than-forgettable 2003 film was made as a loose adaptation of this excellent series, but the recent Showtime series Penny Dreadful also teamed up classic monsters-characters like Dr. Frankenstein, some sort of Vampire, a werewolf, and even that immortal snob, Dorian Gray.
There’s something in the waters of the zeitgeist—or maybe its never left—to get us excited about these classic monsters again. Right now, pick your favorite and cross your fingers that these new monsters are totally awful—in the right way.