Universal has announced that all systems are “Go!” on an Invisible Man reboot to be written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Upgrade), with the horror maestros at Blumhouse steering the ship. Sorry, “Dark Universe.” Blumhouse’s involvement teases the capability to reboot Universal’s entire classic monster catalog should The Invisible Man rake in profits, which – by Blumhouse’s margin-friendly methods – shouldn’t be an outstanding ask. Pretty big news for horror fans.
In looking towards the (inevitable?) future, there exists no set-in-stone roster of filmmakers should other monster reboots be announced. Could we call ourselves online journalists here at /Film if someone didn’t rise to the challenge of drafting their fantasy lineup of possible fill-ins? Speculate, opinionate, debate! I’m here to drop my murderer’s row of creators who’d make us all forget Johnny Depp was EVER slated to play a Dark Universe icon – but, plot twist, I’m not alone.
To bolster this open plea to Blumhouse (we’ll take our royalties in cash, thanks), I sounded the conch and polled a handful of my most trusted horror journalist compatriots to offer alternative takes. Why not turn this one-man-show into a party? Please welcome my esteemed guests:
Anya Stanley (@BookishPlinko): One of the horror beat’s most prolific academic journalists who can also co-host the hell out of a live movie drinking game. Find her on Birth.Movies.Death, Dread Central, Collider, in Fangoria, and tweetin’ out prime content like the inspiration for this very piece.
Jonathan Barkan (@JonathanBarkan): Editor-in-Chief of Dread Central and aggressive hugger. Knows too much about me so I had little choice. Would boop his Vallhund Dante, 13/10.
Marisa Mirabal (@Marisa_Mirabal): Needs no introduction if you’ve been reading her horror-themed content here on /Film. Find her elsewhere on Birth.Movies.Death, Horrornews.net, Collider, and Daily Grindhouse.
Chris Evangelista (@cevangelista413): My “Now Scream This” brother in (dismembered) arms and fellow /Film horror enthusiast. You read him enough, y’all know he’s the real deal.
Matt Barone (@MBarone): Impassioned walking horror encyclopedia and festival programmer for Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and North Bend Film Festival.
Haleigh Foutch (@HaleighFoutch): Editor and Horror Lead for Collider, half of The Witching Hour podcast, and one of the raddest attendees to seek out at horror film festivals.
Ariel Fisher (@Afis8): Co-host of A Frame Apart Podcast and After All Podcast. Find her on Rue Morgue, Birth.Movies.Death, in Fangoria, and featured in Spectacular Optical’s Yuletide Terror (X-mas horror bros!).
Kalyn Corrigan (@kalyncorrigan): Would vote “Most Likely To Summon An Actual Demon” or “Lead A Coven Of Witches.” Find her writing on JoBlo, Vulture, New York Magazine, Indiewire, Birth.Movies.Death, Bloody Disgusting, in Fangoria, and anywhere else horror’s being written about.
What Makes the Monster Special: Frankenstein’s creation is “born” via jolts of electricity from graverobbed parts and a criminal’s brain. The creature first displays characteristics of a simple being – a child, almost – yearning for acceptance and compassion. He’s instead met as the grotesque monster he is, which enacts more primal instincts. Sadly misunderstood, judged on brutish physicality, and ultimately failed by those who assembled him. Often connected to metaphors of a “motherless child” or “oppressed class.”
The Director: Ben Wheatley
Why This Director is a Perfect Fit: When promoting directors who’d instantly vibe Frankenstein’s tone, most will key in on the physical deformations that characterize Dr. Frank’s undead hulk. My pick, on the other hand, ponders a Frankenstein film with classist turmoil at its core. It’s true that I believe filmmaker Ben Wheatley’s versatility will forever be understated, and it’s also true that I’d sell my soul for his first creature feature to be an update on this classic tale of playing God. His monster – in my mind – more reminiscent of Mary Shelley’s literature with articulate vocalized thoughts. Able to provoke commentary amidst outrage, judgment, and existential mob mentalities.
Wheatley’s bullseye adaptation of High-Rise assures me the writer/director could wrestle with Universal’s most maddening thematic plots, and turn “The Creature’s” outcast banishment into rage against oppression. Not to throw away grotesque designs or proper monster representation, of course. Or to lean towards black comedy like Wheatley’s Sightseers or Free Fire. The Ben Wheatley Frankenstein vessel bouncing about my head bottles all the uncontrolled animosity from High-Rise, darkest realities from Kill List, and tremendous character work from across his catalog to birth a Frankenstein monster that’s symbolic beyond scientific tampering gone too far. Something more connected to prisoners of society.
Hell, maybe give us a Frankenstein monster worldly and angry enough to lead a revolution?
Jonathan Barkan – Mike Flanagan: Not only is Flanagan able to create believable period stories, but he never loses sight of the humanity behind it all. Frankenstein is all about the horrors of our actions and the consequences we suffer as a result.
Anya Stanley – Can Evrenol: The dreamiest of dream castings would be to see Can Evrenol take the gnarly, visceral bleakness of Baskin and apply it to the greatest Gothic tale of all time.
Ariel Fisher – Guillermo del Toro: He’s repeatedly spoken about wanting to revamp the Frankenstein films, hewing more closely to the book than previous iterations. Del Toro’s visual aesthetic, track record for creating sympathetic monsters himself and his affection for the source material make him the perfect choice.
Matt Barone – Jeremy Saulnier: With his last three films, Jeremy Saulnier has tackled heart-of-darkness character studies better any other director working today. Imagine what he could do with someone like Dr. Frankenstein, and the kind of gravitas balanced with brutal, visceral carnage he could deliver to a story that’s traditionally been so austere.
Chris Evangelista – Karyn Kusama: Believe it or not, there’s never been a major Frankenstein movie from a female filmmaker. This is a bit nuts, since Frankenstein sprung from the mind of a female writer. Karyn Kusama is one of my favorite directors working right now, and with The Invitation and even the non-horror Destroyer, she’s proved she can craft incredibly tense works of dread.
Marisa Mirabal – Nicolas Pesce: Dedication to one’s craft reaching the point of insanity, testing the realms of science and morality, emotional misunderstanding, and exploring what truly makes a monster are themes that Nicolas Pesce has experimented with before in The Eyes of My Mother and Piercing. I’d love to see his skills applied to those themes in Frankenstein as well.
Haleigh Foutch – Damien Chazelle: The oddball answer that keeps tugging at me is Damien Chazelle. His draw toward driven, isolated characters would be a perfect match for the mad doctor just as his eye for emotionally-driven spectacle for Frankenstein’s monster. It’s also not as far out as it might sound; Blumhouse produced his feature film debut Whiplash, and as they proved by nabbing David Gordon Green for Halloween, the studio is both open to and capable of recruiting unexpected talent for their big-name films. My other dream scenario? Michael Shannon as the monster.
Kalyn Corrigan – Boots Riley: Tell me who is more fitted to helm Frankenstein than Boots Riley, the man who brought us Sorry To Bother You. A filmmaker born from a family of political activists, who went on to create one of the most fascinating mixtures of fantasy and reality with commentary effortlessly woven into every comedic and dramatic moment alike.
Bride Of Frankenstein
What Makes the Monster Special: “The Bride” comes to form as a mate for Frankenstein’s monster, but immediately rejects her lover’s appearance like villagers, scientists, and many others have throughout the creature’s lifespan. “She hate me! Like others.” Tragedy, romance, and an abomination’s curse.
The Director: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Why This Director is a Perfect Fit: Spring. Are you really going to make me draw this explanation out? Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have proven themselves cinema’s most thought-provoking filmmaker duo three times now (Resolution and The Endless in addition to Spring). Their understanding of complex character development, rich philosophical storytelling, and daring narratives are next to none. Even more so, their *perfection* horror romance Spring is about love as a monster and relationship building with bloody blemishes – their take on Bride Of Frankenstein is a necessity at this point.
It’s true that James Whale’s 1935 original is less about Frankenstein’s monster wooing his bolt-haired bride and more a continuation of the scientist’s project interacting (poorly) with humanity. First off, that’s right up Benson and Moorhead’s alley (easily could have swapped them for Wheatley) – but there’s a Bride Of Frankenstein version from Benson and Moorhead I’d love to see. Introduce “The Bride” earlier, allow Frankenstein’s monster to pursue (again, more articulate version), and unite two creations in horrific bliss. Celebrate the “freaks,” darken romantic subplots, and let these filmmaker voices speak to love’s rollercoaster bounds while using iconic genre characters.
Jonathan Barkan – Guillermo Del Toro: Del Toro has always created sympathetic villains and no Universal “monster” is a greater example than “The Creature.” I have the utmost faith that he could capture not only the Monster’s rage and frustration but also the desperate loneliness that hovers over him, eliciting a desire for companionship. Del Toro is also known for his strong and resilient female characters and the Bride should be no different.
Anya Stanley – Coralie Fargeat: Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge is the only part of her resume I needed to see to place full faith and trust in her ability to give us a tangible woman lead both fierce and feminine.
Ariel Fisher – Reed Morano: Morano’s body of work (Meadowland/The Handmaid’s Tale) primarily focuses on women’s experiences, with their painful stories told in challenging and unflinching ways. Given the titular character of this film barely had any screentime in the original, it’d be nice to see this story retold through the female gaze, and I think she has the perfect sensibility to flesh out the Bride and give her an actual backstory.
Matt Barone – Sophia Takal: I’ve always been fascinated by the Bride’s vulnerability in those scenes with Frankenstein’s monster; she’s scared and doesn’t have any sense of identity. In her brilliant psycho-horror film Always Shine, Sophia Takal nailed the subject of identity-based fears and anxieties. If you couple that with the fact that Takal deserves a big break, she feels like a left-field yet deserving choice here.
Chris Evangelista – David Cronenberg: Cronenberg seems to have abandoned the horror genre, which I’m not happy about. But since this is a fantasy list, I’ll just say that the master of body horror should really make a Frankenstein movie before he shuffles off this mortal coil.
Marisa Mirabal – Ana Lily Amirpour: Since the Bride is only on camera for less than three minutes, I’d love to see her character and presence increased. Ana Lily Amirpour would be my top choice to explore the horrific sense of emotional longing and what it means to be a human or a monster within a romantic relationship.
Haleigh Foutch – Karyn Kusama: In a recent interview, Karyn Kusama said the core theme that unites most of her movies is characters that ask themselves, “Do I want to be alive right now?” What story better crystalizes that question than that of the Bride; created to be the companion to a creature tormented by the horrors of his rebirth. No shade on James Whale’s inimitable 1935 film, one of the best ever made, but ideally a revamp of the classic material would put the Bride front and center in her own film, and with movies like Jennifer’s Body and Destroyer, Kusama delivered killer portraits of deadly, complex women trying to find their place in the world.
Kalyn Corrigan – Lynne Ramsay: Ramsay has always made movies about monsters, just look at her work in We Need To Talk About Kevin and You Were Never Really Here. Her unique take on violence, her deeply personal storytelling, her commentary-driven psychological narratives – I’d love to see her vision channeled into a romantic setting.
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