'Tis the season for the mysterious and creepy to be up and about causing mischief and mayhem. There are a certain group of characters from years past that more or less defined this tradition, cinematically speaking, and those cool cats are: the Universal Monsters.
Sad thing is, despite their iconic value, these critters have lost their "umph" when it comes to instilling fear in the populace. Bearing that in mind, the creative minds in Hollyweird have decided to give said beasties a new spin, and what better spin then one where you're capitalizing on a popular genre that's raking in the dough? Said genre, and therefore spin, is the superhero, specifically the kind that involves a cinematic universe. It seems a no brainer, considering Universal is the studio that started this trend way back in the 40s.
And that brings us to the first film in the journal title, the recently released "Dracula Untold". In "Untold", we're given the first full-fledged cinematic telling of Count Dracula's origin, rather than it being a flashback or a prologue. As such, Vlad is portrayed as a hero, and a tragic one at that. So that his son won't have to be inducted into the ranks of the Ottoman Empire's army, Vlad makes a deal with a sinister creature living up in the mountains. After drinking this fiend's blood, Vlad is endowed with the incredible and lethal powers of the vampire, and he will keep them for, and lose them after three days, just as long as he doesn't drink any human blood. Of course, we all know how this ends, and the journey to said end is filled with potent emotion and thrills. Unless you're the crotchy type who likes their Dracula to be the silent and imposing Christopher Lee type, or the creepy, heavily accented Bela Lugosi type, you might be disappointed, and you should be, as the Dracula you're seeking is already readily available. The film isn't without its monster/horror moments, so you'll have your chills, should you be seeking them.
The other film in my title, "I, Frankenstein", released back in January, and a notorious flop unfortunately, is actually the more interesting of the two, as it does something with the Frankenstein story that's never been done before. In Mary Shelley's novel, the Creature, in his exile from humanity, reads the epic poem "Paradise Lost", by John Milton. "I, Frankenstein" essentially puts the Creature right in the middle of the scenario from the poem, a war between angels (in this case gargoyles) and demons. The end result is a captivating action adventure that's gothic when it needs to be, and, despite what some literary snobs may have preconceived when viewing the trailer, faithful to the source material as well, all the while giving us something we haven't seen from any Frankenstein story thus far.
And so, that brings me to the more interesting part of this post: the rebirth of the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe. Now technically, "I, Frankenstein" isn't included, as it was made by Lionsgate, as opposed to Universal. It's a damn shame that the pitch wasn't made at Universal, as the world established in "I" would be incredible when put as a backdrop for other monsters to play in. "Untold" is
however, even if it doesn't overtly make it clear that there are other monsters running around. It'd also be nice if Benicio Del Toro's Lawrence Talbot was a part of this new universe, but it's unclear if he is or not, given 2010's Wolfman was a hard R picture. Ultimately, we'll have to see what else is in store for this new monsterverse whenever "The Mummy" hits theaters in the spring of 2016. In any case, I'm intrigued to see these "heroic" spins on said classic characters, because the only other option is to "beat a dead horse", and that's no fun.