As the success of The Invisible Man continues to make waves, the redirected Dark Universe seems to have found a new purpose. After its first monsters, Dracula: Untold (2014) and The Mummy (2017), failed to impress audiences and critics, Universal was hard-pressed to prove that the ambitious project would be worth the effort and money. The Invisible Man is not directly linked to the Dark Universe, but, thanks to the movie’s inspired production, the public’s interest in classic monsters are rekindled, and the prospects of Universal’s project are looking up – as long as its upcoming movies follow the example of The Invisible Man and not The Mummy.
What Leigh Whannell Got Right
Instead of delivering a Hollywood caricature of a monster, the director and his team placed the character in a real-life, if extreme, scenario: domestic abuse. The cast and crew agree that what makes this movie so scary is this familiar struggle amplified by the threat being invisible, not to mention unbelievable. Everyone, including Elizabeth Moss’s character and viewers, feel the tension in every scene as The Invisible Man gradually turns his ex’s life into a living hell. There are no cataclysmic sandstorms or evil mummies wrecking cities. No super CGI effects to overwhelm your senses. This production is low-key, clever, and wonderfully chilling. If the Dark Universe takes a page out of this Universal-Blumhouse book, the upcoming monsters should see the same success.
Classic Horror a Filmmaking Challenge Today
The Mummy’s director Alex Kurtzman had a big responsibility on his shoulders. He had to remake a beloved classic, which would also launch a new cinematic universe. The result was entertaining, and Sofia Boutella’s monstrous Egyptian princess was intriguing, but the movie as a whole missed the mark on too many levels to salvage. Nevertheless, the presence of Russell Crowe as Henry Jekyll and Mister Hyde did add some flair to the plot, his character even more of a hallmark in the horror industry than the Mummy or the Invisible Man. Yet the latter’s movie enjoyed the smoother ride.
As a character, the Invisible Man has mostly appeared on cinema and TV screens, typically in his familiar wrappings, coat, and hat. Even in the few video games around, like a Game Factory Interactive hidden-objects title named after him and following the trail of the vanished scientist, he hasn’t really evolved over the years – until now. Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego, however, have reappeared again and again in various forms. Bruce Banner and the Hulk are even based on them. Their influence is more widespread as, for example, their presence enhances online slot gaming experiences through themed titles using gothic audiovisual features, with their good and evil personas taking center stage. Other video games like Cryo Interactive’s adventure Jekyll and Hyde, not to mention a range of movies and TV shows, exist because of their popularity.
In which case, Dr. Jekyll wasn’t a bad choice as leader of Prodigium, the Dark Universe’s evil-hunting secret society. But, unfortunately, he was squeezed into meaningless action-packed chaos about a completely different monster. And so his and Prodigium’s prominent roles intended to connect all the Dark Universe’s movies were scrapped after The Mummy flopped. Instead, we can expect standalone movies like The Invisible Man that try to recreate the terror of cult classics in order to actually scare modern audiences, not just amuse them. Who knows? Maybe Jekyll and Hyde will get their well-deserved reboot in the end.
Dracula is Back… Again
What we know about the production is mostly good news. Blumhouse is producing once again with a script by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay. Karyn Kusama of Jennifer’s Body (2009) and Destroyer (2018) will be in the director’s seat, following the same original standalone strategy as The Invisible Man. Additionally, the retelling of the master vampire’s story will also take place in modern times. Universal studios certainly seem to have learned their lesson and steering clear of the antiquated blockbuster recipe. Smaller budgets, unique perspectives, and stories with depth are what people want and, hopefully, getting from now on. The Dark Universe may have come short of what Marvel and DC have accomplished, but this new direction may turn out better in terms of quality filmmaking.
Other Universal monster movies to look forward involves Frankenstein, the Invisible Woman, and Renfield, Dracula’s assistant. But the ultimate goal for the Dark Universe remains what is currently referred to as the Dark Army. Paul Feig has already signed on to direct and write the script for this cinematic compilation of monsters and characters from classic horror stories. We will have to wait and see the fate of the rest of the movies leading up to it, but staying focused on originality and strong storytelling should create a remarkable series, if not a truly epic climax.