Hot off the heels of The Invisible Man‘s big success at the box office, Universal has its eye on its next classic monster to give the fresh movie treatment: Dracula.
THR has learned that Blumhouse is busy getting the project together, and it even already has a director attached: Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation, Destroyer). Kusama is a really interesting choice as a filmmaker to head the project. Her movies all have strong themes of feminism and equality, with her protagonists almost always being women, and flawed, difficult characters. Does that mean the vampire of legend might be a woman this time?
Kusama’s work also regularly explores concepts of grief and loss, anxiety and identity. Blumhouse’s model allows filmmakers to bring their unique voices and visions to the table. If they let Kusama do her thing (as expected they will), it could be a very provocative, modern twist on an old tale, similar to what Leigh Whannell did in framing The Invisible Man within the context of gaslighting, trauma and abuse.
The resurrection of Dracula continues the new approach Universal is taking with its Dark Universe (not to be confused with Legendary/Warner Bros.’ Godzilla-centered Monsterverse), which is no longer a ‘verse at all. For years, Universal tried to get an interconnected monster universe off the ground in the vein of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it never took off. First was 2014’s Dracula Untold, which was reworked to be part of that shared universe. It didn’t light up the box office and failed to capture critics and audiences.
Then, Universal decided to reboot its reboot and announced its remake of The Mummy as the first in the Dark Universe. The studio quickly pulled together a number of huge names for the roles, both in front of and behind the camera: Tom Cruise as the Mummy, Russell Crowe was to play Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Javier Bardem to be Frankenstein’s Monster and Angeline Jolie reportedly to play the Bride of Frankenstein, and Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man. Announcements were made; a ill-fated cast photo was released.
And then The Mummy was released in 2017 and, well, bombed. What was meant to be a triumphant start to a new universe hit theaters with a thud, underwhelming at the box office and being derided for its generic action approach and muddied storytelling. Once again, the Dark Universe seemed DOA.
But the third time appears to be a charm, with Universal wisely letting go of the idea of a shared universe with a big budget, instead turning the reins over to Blumhouse. So far, Blumhouse’s low-budget, filmmaker-driven approach has worked well, with The Invisible Man scaring up almost $100 million on a $7 million and showing that movies about Universal’s classic monsters can still be successful and relevant as standalone projects. Between that, Kusama’s Dracula project, and James Wan’s as-yet-unnamed legacy monster project, the Dark Universe might indeed thrive – just not in a way Universal had originally envisioned.