By now, you’ve surely heard the news: Universal Pictures is releasing a series of brand new films based on its iconic monsters of old.
However you feel about this, we thought it only appropriate that Famous Monsters address the controversy in the only way we know how: by ranking them in order of our excitement level, from “Meh” to “OH DEAR GOD!”. We well admit that any one of these could be a disaster or a surprising masterpiece, but the very nature of the property — as well as how many times it’s already been made or remade — definitely affects anticipation and/or dread, depending on how much of a purist you are. Let’s take the plunge…
6. VAN HELSING
Dare we ask if anyone cares? Everyone loves Peter Cushing and his Van Helsing in Hammer’s BRIDES OF DRACULA, but other attempts at Van Helsing since have seemed a little… empty. Lest we forget: despite some great CGI and creature design, 2004’s VAN HELSING ultimately felt like a retread of every monster mash movie ever without the dramatic tension (or character development). Throwing monsters around on screen only works for so long before it gets boring (unless you’re Godzilla; he’s the exception). The solution, in our opinion, would be to cast an incredibly charismatic actor as Doctor Van Helsing — one magnetizing to the point that the monsters become a bonus instead of the main event. Challenging, to be sure, but not impossible.
5. THE WOLF MAN
Meh. They tried this one back in 2010 already, and though the makeup effects were spectacular and of course won Rick Baker his seventh Oscar alongside Famous Monsters cover artist Dave Elsey… it dragged. Dear god, it dragged. Word to the wise: the hour and a half running time of many classic films is a trend for a reason, and a movie should really be more than just great makeup. That being said… Hollywood has yet to truly do right by werewolves, and a redesign of the Wolf Man might seem blasphemous but ultimately have potential to sweep aside its previous failures. We’ll see.
4. THE MUMMY
Not too long to wait, now. This one’s a month away! We have a feeling that how much you enjoy THE MUMMY will depend a great deal on how much or how little you enjoy the screen presence of Tom Cruise (as opposed to Boris Karloff). It’s very difficult to wow with the living dead these days, no matter how decadent or mummified or Egyptian. Maybe Ahmanet has some tricks up her sleeve that Imhotep could barely dream of. It’s more likely that the fright sequences will pull a great deal from the Japanese repertoire of horror flicks about wronged women with long black hair – which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not terribly original anymore.
3. THE INVISIBLE MAN
This film is arguably the one that could benefit the most from updated special effects and studio wizardry. Not that we’d recommend going full CGI on the mad doctor – please no – but giving said character a phantom head in a way similar to how post-production geniuses gave Gary Sinise phantom legs in FORREST GUMP could be very cool. Of course, good camera angles and missing heads can’t save a crappy script, if it comes to that. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.
2. CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON
So the Creature is everybody’s favorite Universal monster, right? Favorite monster design, anyway. The brilliant Millicent Patrick conceived of a fish man who was sleek with anthropomorphic elegance… instead of, you know, an evil mermaid or a shark with legs. (Shark… with legs… okay, yikes.) See, the underwater killing machine has yet to lose its relevance and/or popularity, be it a shark, a leviathan, an alligator, or an anaconda. Humans still can’t inherently understand deep water, or what could be lurking in it. There could be plesiosaurs with gills at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and we would be none the wiser. Thus, the concept still has weight. But regardless of how effectively scary it can be, this new Creature could be a replica of the original (please no), something we’ve never seen before, or an allusion that is both creepy and familiar. This is exactly where the remake has to prove itself: in the Creature’s actual physical appearance.
1. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
Oh, we pity the poor souls who have to take this on. Our hats go off to David Koepp for even throwing his hat into the ring. We can’t really imagine a world in which the remake lives up to the 1932 masterpiece, or even what route the remake will take. Chances are, given the iconic material, they’ll either go for a shot-by-shot remake a la Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO (bad idea), or a complete “reimagining” with different character designs, new technology, and crazy special effects (better idea, but still risky). Best case scenario is if they take a low-key approach (doubtful) and pay appropriate homage to each scene without necessarily recreating it. Luckily, the original has achieved cinematic immortality, so even if they completely mess this up, we can forget it ever happened and move on in the grand tradition of such gems as the 1997 GODZILLA (ugh, it hurts just to type that).
Good luck, brave ones – you’re going to need it.