Thursday, November 07, 2019

The New INVISIBLE MAN Trailer starring Elizabeth Moss Hits All the Right Notes


Universal Pictures has been trying to revive their Movie Monsters for a new audience for the past few decades to very mixed results. Their catalogue of creatures runs is a library of Classic Horror that includes: The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. That's a menagerie that should form the foundation for a media empire, and it did.

In the early 20th Century, Universal dominated the horror movie market with these characters, but they also contributed to their downfall. As the popularity of the characters dwindled as audiences had come to think of them as cliche, Universal began to parody the characters in order to keep them fresh. When Abbot and Costello met Frankenstein, it wasn't in a production from a rival company. No, it was Universal who produced the picture and to financial success. That success diluted the brand as a Universal brand, even as they held copyright and trademark over many of the characters.

The Hammer Studios revived many of these characters, and in the Gothic setting, and eventually did so with distribution agreements with Universal. In the documentary Flesh and Blood, Christopher Lee states that Hammer's Horror of Dracula saved Universal Pictures from bankruptcy. This information is repeated in The Encyclopedia of Hammer Films. Hammer's productions initially treated the characters seriously, but updated the gore and sexuality to match the times. They too eventually fell into the parody/irony trap with productions like Dracula A.D. 1972.

While viewers in the early 1980s saw the release of An American Werewolf in London, an excellent Wolfman story distributed by Universal, they also saw other compelling adaptations of the monster like Joe Dante's classic The Howling. As the characters moved into the public domain, the Monsters were set free and Columbia/Sony took advantage of that freedom with films like Wolf, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was clear that if Universal wanted to demonstrate that these characters were "truly theirs," they would have to do something special. Their first foray, 1999s The Mummy, stands out as an excellent film that combines Pulp action and Horror storytelling, but as that franchise wandered into cheesy sword and sorcery films (as much as I love them) like The Scorpion King or bizarre and confused films like Van Helsing (Frankenstein's monster as Duracell for Dracula's Incubator is a strange premise) the relaunch momentum faded as it became stylistically confused. Universal's other serious attempt, the underrated The Wolfman, got lost in the shuffle.

Enter the 2010s and a renewed effort to revitalize the brand with a focus on creating a "shared universe" for the characters. In this new model, inspired by superhero films, Universal produced the "superhero Dracula" film Dracula Untold where Dracula takes on the curse for noble reasons and it is suggested that Dracula will be one of a cast of monsters who will fight a greater evil "Creature Commandos style" in a future Team-Up film. The shared universe was expanded with a new The Mummy featuring Tom Cruise as the target of the Mummy's obsession, with a gender reversal on Mummy and beloved. The film also features Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. My own "headcanon" has Tom Cruise's character as Frankenstein's Monster "Adam," but that's a conversation for another time. The Tom Cruise film earned sufficient money that it didn't kill off the idea of continuing Classic Monster productions. As Scott Mendelson points out in his Forbes article discussing the new The Invisible Man trailer, it wasn't really a success either. In large part because the "Dark Universe" shared universe model seems to be off putting to many fans. I'm not among those fans. I'd love to see the shared universe Monsters vs. Satan film, but that's just the role playing gamer in me.

This leaves us with the new The Invisible Man trailer. Where does it lie? Well, it certainly doesn't seem to be a part of the "Dark Universe." What it does seem to be is a great updating of the original Horror tale. Universal Pictures seems to be on the verge of repeating their success with Hammer Films by teaming up with Blumhouse Productions for this latest Classic Monster movie. Blumhouse is the perfect production company to develop The Invisible Man. The story should be a commentary of the evil men would do if they possessed the Ring of Gyges that is accessible to a modern audience. By incorporating elements of Gaslight, a 1944 MGM film that is particularly salient today, with the traditional Invisible Man story, the potential is through the roof.

If the trailer for The Invisible Man is any sign. It will be a new classic and be further evidence of Blumhouse's ability to channel modern fears into classic tales.

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