There’s Still Time To Fix the Dark Universe

The Mummy is a very problematic film. It’s trying to be way too many things, and none of those things are what the film needs to be or should be. I get that Universal is trying to set up a Cinematic Universe, so they’re building a world, and using this film to do it. But the one thing they don’t get is that these Monsters aren’t superheroes.

When it was first announced that they were working on resurrecting their stable of classic monster films, with big names attached no less, I was excited. I grew up on the classics. Then trailers started rolling out and they looked exactly like the big budget action films they’re patterning the cinematic universe after. That’s not a knock on the MCU or the DCEU or Fox’s X-MenCU. They’re great, and they usually work for what they are. But that’s because the films fit the genre. The topics fit the genre. But we don’t need another big, loud, action-packed franchise/cinematic universe. We’ve got Avengers, Justice League, Star Wars, Transformers, Fast & Furious, and a handful of others.

What the audiance needs, what The Mummy needed to be, what the Dark Universe needs to be… is a horror franchise. A horror universe. These are monster/horror films. They don’t need to be action blockbuster tentpoles. They can be high budget horror films (which in that genre is really anything north of $5 million). These monsters, The Mummy, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Creature From The Black Lagoon… they are the genesis for horror cinema. Don’t remove them from horror, and don’t remove horror from them.

What could Universal do with that? Dominate the fall. Just own October. Disney’s releasing a Star War every Christmas. Marvel & DC are duking it out in the summer. Just release a monster movie every Halloween. That could be THEIR thing.

Hell… follow in the Marvel/Lucasfilm footsteps of bringing in an indie/auteur director who made some waves to bring a unique eye to your films. Indie horror is huge right now. Get a horror filmmaker, one who’s had a hit over the past few years, have them conceive your film. Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Robert Eggers (The Witch), Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night), David Robert Mitchell (It Follows), Mike Flanagan (Hush), Fede Alvaraz (Don’t Breathe), Adam Winegard (You’re Next, The Guest), Anne Billar (The Love Witch), or go foreign for some added flare, like Julia Ducournau (Raw) from France or Sang-Ho Yeon (Train to Busan) from South Korea. All of them could bring something to the table to make these insanely good films that people would want to watch. Get them all together, say “This is our grand design for the franchise, drive your films toward it, but how you get there is up to you.” Then let the artists work.

Treat it like a horror franchise. Not an action franchise. Universal already has one in Fast & Furious. Horror is notoriously low risk/high reward (for studios, anyway). They could easily spend a modest $50 million (modest for studios), get a good cast and crew together, make some bank at the box office. And have themselves a nice tidy franchise on your hands.

Back to The Mummy, I felt like Sofia Boutella was the only one who understood that it was a horror film. She was operating and performing at a different level. She got it. It’s just too bad no one else did. Everyone was making a boring action movie with no discernable sense of direction. She made a monster-horror film. So Universal… please, I beg you… take a cue from Boutella. Make these as horror films. You’ll make some money, and the audience will dig it.

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