With the launch of The Wolfman (2010), Universal Studios has finally returned to its roots as the premier outlet for big budget horror, and for monster movies in particular.
The Wolfman is first of all, a damn fine werewolf movie. There are no shaggy, hunky werewolves and they don’t sparkle. It doesn’t stray far from the original, it’s no reboot or re-imagining, it’s something rare: a respectful and vital remake. It expands on the 1941 classic without changing into something altogether different. And it is drenched in dark gothic beauty.
The Wolfman almost makes up for the hyperactive turd that was Van Helsing (2004). Almost. What would redeem Universal from that travesty is a slew of smart and loving remakes drawn from their library of monster classics; movies very much in the vein of The Wolfman. Sadly, there is little evidence that Universal has the foresight to see the potential in a modern, well-made monster franchise. I suspect they are waiting to read the box-office returns of The Wolfman.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon remake, which has been stuck in development hell for decades, is currently in pre-production, maybe. There have been numerous directors attached to this project for years and currently some nobody named Carl Rinsch is slated to helm it. That is not reassuring. God save us if Stephen Sommers gets his hands on this property. Hopefully he will tied up with G.I. Joe 2: Rise of T.U.R.D. for a while.
Supposedly, the mammoth success of Avatar (2009) is going to lead to a slew of movies in 3D. Wouldn’t it be ironic if that tide finally got The Creature off the shelf and into theaters?
The Creature from the Black Lagoon is the property that makes the most sense, of course, as a remake. But what about the other beloved Universal properties? Here’s what I think might work:
♦ The Werewolf of London. This has always been a personal favorite of mine. I like the minimalist make up, the scientific angle, and Henry Hull’s sympathetic performance. (Better than Lon Chaney, Jr. IMHO) The Wolfman has already covered a lot of the same territory, but I think that this would be an interesting property for an imaginative twist in the right hands. David Cronenberg?
♦ The Bride of Frankenstein. One of the things that has weighed down most of the recent re-imaginings of the Frankenstein story is the whole monster creation storyline. Superhero movies have the same problem: you have to spend half the movie introducing the character and explaining why they are the way they are. A remake of The Bride would eliminate that problem; you could start the movie with a fully imagined, Karloffian, bad-ass Frankenstein monster. The plot could center around the monster’s efforts to track down Dr. Frankenstein and force him to make a bride. I could even see it as an R-rated gore fest, perfect for someone like Rob Zombie.
♦ Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman. Why not? Half the matchup is in the can already; this could be the follow-up to my Bride re-imagining. Marvel is doing it with The Avengers, creating a franchise of multiple characters feeding into one big budget orgy of genre spectacle.
♦ Dracula’s Daughter. This was one of Universal’s smartest and most sexually subversive offerings. Like the Bride re-imagining, this angle would free filmakers from having the burden of dealing with the whole Dracula mythology and would present an opportunity for an, adult, intelligent take on vampirism. Post-feminist? Lesbian?
I’m sure that none of these ideas will go anywhere; instead Universal will green-light The Mummy 4 or Van Helsing 2: The Teen Age Years. Meanwhile I will savor at least one movie that made me nostalgic for the magic that once was Universal.