Last year, fans of the classic Universal Monsters films erupted in a bit of an uproar when the studio sent out a press release describing the new Universal Monsters shared universe as “epic action-adventure” — with no mention of the word “horror.” Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman (Transformers) and Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious franchise) are spearheading Universal’s reboot of its classic monsters franchise, with Kurtzman slated to direct the first film out of the gate with 2017’s The Mummy.
While at the Television Critics Association Press Tour to promote the CBS series Limitless, I joined a small group of reporters in a post-panel chat with Kurtzman. He talked about the progress of the Universal Monsters shared universe, how they are utilizing the writers’ room to bring the universe to life, and promised that there will, in fact, be horror in the Universal Monsters. Phew!
While the first installment of the Universal Monsters reboot, The Mummy, was recently delayed by 9 months, moving from June 2016 to March 24, 2017, Kurtzman sounded optimistic about their progress on pre-production.
The monster universe is coming together very very quickly, we’re very excited. There will be announcements soon. We have actually started doing a lot of design work, we’re getting scripts in, everything is feeling really really good, so I don’t want to curse it by saying too much to you, but it’s going well.
Fans were initially alarmed when Universal described new monsters universe as “epic action-adventure,” seemingly abandoning the horror genre, but Kurtzman was adamant that not only will there be horror elements to the rebooted franchise, but he completely understands why people were upset at the suggestion that there wouldn’t be.
Yeah, I think it’s a fair response and it’s actually not — I think there was some lost in translation quality to the way it was received, because I promise you there will be horror in these movies. It is our life goal to make a horror movie. The tricky part is actually how you combine horror with either adventure or suspense or action and be true to all the genres together. In some way, Mummy, dating all the way back to the Karloff movie, was the first to do that. It was the first to combine horror with — I wouldn’t say action, but certainly a lot of suspense. So it’s more about how you blend the different elements and stay true to each one, but there will definitely be horror in the monster movies…We will hopefully serve it up good and plenty.
Finally, Kurtzman spoke about the benefit of working with a writers’ room that includes Noah Hawley (the creator of FX’s Fargo), Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners), and Ed Solomon (Now You See Me) matching the right writer to the right monster.
Coming out of television and having come out of writers rooms, the thing that I got out of it, and that I learned so much from the experience of being in the writers room, is that there’s always sort of one or two singular voices to the show, but it’s great when you have a group of writers who are talented in their own right coming together to build a world. We very carefully selected writers who — each of them have their own incredible careers. All of them we admire hugely. Chris Morgan is my partner in this and we all picked people that we’ve worked with before, people that we really liked, people whose work we admired, people that we didn’t know, and really thought long and hard about which writers felt right for each monster. So our goal is to have each movie retain the identity and the individuality of the specific monster, but you’ll see how they start to fit into a larger universe as the movies unravel.
Still think a shared monsters universe is a terrible idea? Happy to hear that they haven’t completely abandoned their horror roots? Sound off in the comments below.