The first of Universal Pictures Dark Universe films opens Friday, and sadly is not a great start to this idea of remaking their classic horror films of the thirties and forties and merging them into the same universe, thereby, the same films. Are they forgetting they did this before and buried each monster into the ground with repetition and nothing left to do? In the forties, they threw the Frankenstein monster, Dracula and the Wolfman into films such as House of Frankenstein (1943), House of Dracula (1944), and Frankenstein meets the Wolfman (1944)? Logic and timelines meant nothing, they made no sense but they did make money.
The actors involved became legends, Karloff, Lugosi, the two Chaney’s, all major stars of the genre, the two latter portraying many of the monsters. They remain much beloved movies from a much loved genre.
Is that the direction these new films will take?
I hope not!
The original The Mummy (1932) had one of the most terrifying moments I have ever seen on screen. The scientist, having found the centuries dead Mummy, reads the words on the parchment that will bring the creature back to life. Before his eyes it moves out of its crypt, takes the papers he was reading and wanders into the desert. We can see the exact moment the man’s mind snaps and he is left a babbling fool, “He went for a little walk!”
There is nothing as scary as that small scene in this new film because truthfully it is not a horror film, but rather an action movie. Audiences have changed, supernatural forces do not frighten them anymore because they have seen far too much. More than anything they know the most frightening creature on earth is man.
Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), a soldier of fortune has stolen a map which might lead him to untold treasures in the deserts of Iraq. With the true owner of the map on his heels, they stumble onto the tomb of a long dead princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), buried alive for killing her father, the Pharaoh and her little brother. Revived she is, to say the least, pissed. She needs a human body to inhabit until she make her stay in this new world more permanent and she chooses Morton. Entering his mind she means nothing but evil, to do harm, to hurt, to rule.
Into the mix comes Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who is sort of the Nick Fury of the new Dark Universe, himself holding at bay a terrible other self, the ferocious Mr. Hyde. The good doctor fights all forces of supernatural evil, and could be of use to Morton. The images of the Mummy are genuinely dark and powerful, but not really frightening. In fact nothing in the film is very scary, which is a shame considering this is to be a horror universe with remakes of some of the greatest horror classics of all time. It was exciting to watch the stunning visuals, but the only actor working on a character here is Crowe who is very good as the rather pompous Jekyll.
Cruise can play this type of part in his sleep by now, suffice to say he is on “cruise” control throughout. Miss Boutella looks terrifying, does some wild things, but even with millions of dollars of CGI work around them all, not once do they equal, that small, terrifying moment in 1932 when Karloff came to life and went for a little walk. Overall I was disappointed, and came home, grabbed the 1932 film off my shelf and watched a real horror movie.