Universal Studios has a long, rich, laudable history of making monster movies. In 1923, Lon Chaney’s work as Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, kicked off what would be a fantastically successful decades-long series of horror films for the studio. Chaney portrayed monsters through the rest of the decade until Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff each first donned their monster makeup in 1931 with “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” respectively. All through the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and into the ’60s, Universal rotated a crop of monsters that performed spectacularly at the box office. Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, and Chaney’s son Lon Chaney, Jr. became widely famous for their work, and the American public turned out en masse to see multiple incarnations of “The Wolfman,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Mummy,” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
Indeed, Universal’s monster movies are part of cinema history, which is why recent developments at the studio are a bit surprising. As reported by THR, Universal Chairman Donna Langley recently sat down with five other studio heads as part of a roundtable. When asked about a new direction for Universal’s monsters, Langley said:
“…we have to mine our resources. We don’t have any capes [in our film library]. But what we do have is an incredible legacy and history with the monster characters. We’ve tried over the years to make monster movies — unsuccessfully, actually. So, we took a good, hard look at it, and we settled upon an idea, which is to take it out of the horror genre, put it more in the action-adventure genre and make it present day, bringing these incredibly rich and complex characters into present day and reimagine them and reintroduce them to a contemporary audience.”
Audiences are already griping about the oversaturation of the superhero market. Marvel and DC have a combined 20 superhero films set for release by 2020. Whereas with few exceptions, modern horror films are either found footage or slasher flicks. Some are quite good, but if you don’t want to see a low-budget ghost haunt a family or a group of people get chopped up in the woods, you’re out of luck. Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman could have been the cure to the hackneyed horror tropes of recent years —and we understand how ironic that sounds, given that those characters have spawned countless, unsuccessful remakes. In the roundtable, Langley cites “Dracula Untold’ as Universal dipping its toe into this new approach, and if that’s the future…well, let’s hope the movies get much better because that’s not a great place to start.
What do you think of this new approach? Are we overreacting, or should Universal reconsider giving these classic monsters the superhero treatment? Let us know below. [via Live for Films]