Good afternoon, fellow horror movie fanatics! In Part 1 of this series, I imagined myself as a studio exec at Universal in charge of reviving the prematurely terminated “Dark Universe,” our cinematic universe of classic monsters!
In step 1 of my plan, I established Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy as canon (pretending all subsequent Mummy movies never existed, similar to the endless timelines for Halloween). In step 2, the BIG bad made his terrifying debut: Dracula! Son of the Devil!
Next we’ll explore how this universe will continue and, if possible, search for a feasible ending…
Step 3: Make Wolf Man Native American
Now I already know what you’re going to say. Werewolves on an Indian reservation? That’s starting to sound a bit teen drama, don’t you think? Especially if vampires are involved. And I get it, but let me assure you, Dracula is not making a return in this movie.
I repeat: THERE WILL BE NO VAMPIRES IN MY WOLF MAN REBOOT!
Honestly, I just want some diversity in the casting of our monsters. Are we not tired of white or white-passing monsters terrorizing other white or white-passing victims? If Universal really wants to revamp their classic monsters and tell different stories, they should add some color and look into different legends and lore from other cultures as the foundation for the next monster.
The reason why I say make Wolf Man (or Wolf Woman) Native American is because Native American folklore has some terrifying creatures, for example, the wendigo of the Algonquian people of the Great Plains or the similar creature wechuge of the Athabaskan people in the Pacific Northwest. Like the Wolf Man, both are man-eating creatures stalking the forest, but that’s about where their similarities stop. Both are associated with extreme cold and winter. However, rather than transforming by the full moon, a person can become a wendigo or wechuge by being possessed by its spirit or by doing something considered taboo (their transformation being a punishment).
Pop culture and media has been a bit oversaturated with wendigo depictions, and unfortunately none resemble original Indigenous descriptions, which is a giant skeletal humanoid creature (something akin to a zombie) rather than a beast. Although, according to my research, the wechuge is described as being a spirit animal, limiting it to a werewolf could be perceived as culturally appropriating and offensive. So to do this right and respectfully, our filmmakers will have to do adequate research and include people, scholars, and/or experts from these Nations in the creative process so that the movie isn’t dead on arrival for being wildly offensive.
If we can successfully reboot the classic Wolf Man as a wechuge or wendigo or some other man-eating creature from traditional Indigenous folklore, here’s how a potential synopsis might go:
A group of teenaged campers (all but one are non-Native) are sitting around a campfire in the woods telling ghost stories, singing, or doing whatever else one does around a campfire, when a sudden gust of wind blows the fire out and an unseasonal chill surrounds them. The Native camper goes to collect sticks to rebuild the fire (possibly after losing a game of rock, paper, scissors), but while gone, something attacks the camp. When they return, all that’s left are the blood-covered places where their friends once sat, along with the foul stench of death (characteristic of the wendigo) that leaves our last remaining camper gagging.
When news spreads of the killings, the camper is shunned from the rest of the reservation—everyone believing that the camper has been possessed by the wendigo (or wechuge). A fear that intensifies when people start disappearing after the first snow fall, with only a trail of blood left behind.
Van Helsing returns, believing the culprit is Dracula, but when he learns the bodies are being eaten, not drained of blood, he suspects another monster whose legend originates in his hometown of London, England (remember in the last post I said he was a descendent of Evie and Rick O’Connell). Only, when Van Helsing chains little camper up on the night of the full moon and they don’t transform into a wolf, Van Helsing has to work with the locals and little camper to find and destroy the true monster and save a dying community.
Other than a clear Dracula character joining the cast (Van Helsing), this is still, for the most part, a standalone film, but we are starting to connect them without throwing too much extra “universe-building” into one movie.
The lead up to the next film will be mid- and post-credits scenes.
After finding the “Wolf Man,” Van Helsing sits in a small diner, drinking coffee and skimming through the newspaper, where he gets clues to his next mystery.
(By the way, I am well aware that I’m effectively turning Van Helsing and whoever’s with him into the brothers duo Dean and Sam from Supernatural, but maybe it could work in cinema.)
Someone has been stealing corpses in a sleepy town in New England. You know where this is going right?
Dr. Victor Frankenstein is returning to his lab after another long day of stealing unidentified dead bodies from the hospital morgue, where he works as his day job, so that he can put the finishing touches on his monster and fulfill his maddening obsession to be like God and create life.
Well, behind him, a television plays—a news report of an archeological find: the lost city of Hamunaptra discovered again! And now on display at the Cairo Museum is the infamous black Book of the Dead (yes from The Mummy), rumored to be able to bring the dead back to life.
Cue mad scientist laugh!
Step 4: Frankenstein meets the Mummy (first monster showdown)
Despite the title, this will still, for the most part, be a Frankenstein movie. It’s just set in Egypt.
One hundred years after the events of The Mummy. Frankenstein travels to Egypt with his monster, convincing Customs that this is the corpse of a dead Egyptian colleague whom he’s returning home. However, his true purpose is to steal the Book of the Dead from the Cairo Museum and use it to raise his monster.
In order to do this, he strikes up a relationship with the museum’s curator, the reincarnated Anck-su-namun. Now, given that The Mummy was over 20 years ago, do we want to bring back the original actors who played Imhotep and Anck-su-namun and de-age them using CGI (Captain Marvel style) or get all new actors? That remains TBD.
For now, we’ll call the Mummy’s reincarnated love Anna. Anna tells Frankenstein about the legend behind the book, the curse of the Mummy, and the story told by her grandmother about what allegedly happened 100 years ago, when the Mummy was brought back to life the first time. She doesn’t believe in it, but she knows better than to mess with the supernatural; she’s just doing her job.
The risk of waking an undead Mummy doesn’t deter Frankenstein, however, and he succeeds in stealing the book, deciphers the hieroglyphs using the Internet (how else would you do that in present day?), and recites the incantation to raise his monster.
As in other Frankenstein adaptions, initial elation at bringing life turns to dread as he looks upon his hideous monster and realizes this was not the life he intended and rejects him. Hurt by his creator’s rejection, the monster leaves.
Now the weird things happen. The plagues befall Egypt (there’s a locust outbreak at the dig site in Hamunaptra that halts any further excavations), the museum discovers the book is missing, people are mysteriously dying (drained of life), and a doomed family finds Frankenstein’s monster hiding out in their home and believe him to be the Mummy awoken. All hell breaks loose.
Van Helsing arrives in pursuit of Frankenstein. Anna accuses Frankenstein of stealing the book, which, if the museum finds out, could get her fired. She doesn’t believe he’s awoken any Mummy, despite what the locals are saying, and she doesn’t believe he’s created any monster, until she she’s the monster herself and screams and faints in horror. Word spreads that the monster is the Mummy returned, and the people set out to kill him. But the only way to kill the undead Mummy is with the golden Book of Amun-Ra, which has not been found yet. Hearing this, the monster travels to Hamunaptra to find the book and save himself. Only, when he gets there…the Mummy is alive! And when the monster opens a chest he probably shouldn’t have, looking for the Book, the Mummy kills him to become whole again.
Back at the Cairo Musuem, Anna is working late, terrified to go home after meeting Frankenstein’s monster. A mysterious man enters the office, offering to loan a family heirloom to the museum for its Hamunaptra exhibit: the golden book everyone’s been looking for. It was never at Hamunaptra, he proclaims, but in his family’s possession for millennium. There’s an instant attraction between these two because this mystery man is the Mummy!
Meanwhile, Van Helsing is interrogating the disgraced doctor about what he’s brought upon the earth. Frankie thinks he’s only talking about the monster. No, Van Helsing says, there is greater evil in this world. Frankie remembers the monster was going to Hamunaptra to find the book, so that’s where they go next. But what they find is a dead monster, a reassimilated Mummy, Anna now possessed by Anck-su-namun’s soul, and the two of them disappearing into a cloud of sand. The world descends into chaos with the spread of the 10 plagues.
And that’s the end of the movie.
I know, I know. Another cliffhanger. Infinity War did it. And yes, I know we’re trying to avoid turning these movies into Marvel superhero blockbusters. I cringe even thinking I said that! But how else would you end this movie without killing the Mummy?
So what about Van Helsing? Well, he’s 1 for 2 at this point, and two of the most powerful monsters are now at large. He’s not feeling too great about himself right now. There’s just one thing that bothers him. If the monster wasn’t the one killing people, and the Mummy never left Hamunaptra before the monster arrived to get sucked up, then who’s responsible for…
A forlorn Dr. Frankie is sitting at a bar, lamenting at what his obsession has created—madness, destruction—definitely not life. Beside him, a mysterious companion whose face we cannot see tells him that his mistake was believing that he could ever be God. If he truly wanted to bring life, he first had to die…
He suddenly attacks Frankie’s neck. The camera zooms out, and the companion is revealed to be Dracula! Not only does he drain Frankie’s blood, but he also bites his own wrist and force feeds Frankie his blood before snapping his neck (too Vampire Diaries?) and walks away menacingly. The people silently watching in the bar are also all vampires. Yep, in addition to the 10 plagues of Egypt, there’s another plague spreading: vampirism.
And that’s the end of the movie.
Step 5: A creature rises…
In the days, weeks, months (how long are we going to let the Mummy run rampant, by the way?) since the rise of the Mummy, plagues are spreading all across the globe. Blood, frogs, flies, etc, and somewhere, deep in the Amazon, out of the depths of the Black Lagoon, a creature…
Oh, Van Helsing! We have another monster for you to catch!
Step 6: The Mummy meets Dracula (final monster showdown)
The Mummy can’t be allowed to continue his “baecation” with Anck-su-namun while the rest of the world burns. Van Helsing is on the clock. He and his team have been tracking the plagues around the world (we’ll table who his team could be for now, as I don’t want it to turn into Avengers/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). There are two plagues that have yet to be unleashed: darkness and death of the firstborn. Wherever in the world they occur, Dracula and the Mummy are sure to be. And if darkness spreads across the earth, God only knows what Dracula and his army of the undead will do. There’s just one question: Are Dracula and the Mummy working together?
My answer would be no, for reasons I’ve already discussed. Plus, two BIG bads in the same movie is rarely done well. One is always going to get more screen type, and we can’t really flesh out the characters, their motivations, and their stakes when the cast is so crowded. Inevitably character development is flattened out to push forward the plot.
So, as I’ve said before, Dracula is the BIG bad, and he’s hunting the Mummy. In fact, the plagues are spreading so fast because the Mummy is on the run. Why is Dracula chasing the Mummy? To team up? No, he wants his powers, particularly the plague of darkness. He wants to use it to spread his darkness upon the earth and fill it with vampires not limited by the sun, starting with the firstborns. Scary shit, people.
But after an undetermined amount of time of the Mummy somehow evading him, Dracula has decided to shift his focus from Imhotep to his woman, knowing that once he’s made Anck-su-namun one of his brides, the Mummy will have no choice but to give in to him.
Oh, and by the way, Imhotep is still holding onto that Book of Amun-Ra (he’s learned his lesson from the last time he was risen), so if someone (possibly someone invisible?) can get a hold of that book—or maybe if the Mummy will willingly give up his immortality after losing his woman…again—we can put an end to this world of monsters!
And that’s it! That’s my Dark Universe franchise! Will it be good? It could be. I mean, I like it, but it’s my idea, so why wouldn’t I? Will it be better than what Universal has given us so far? Well besides the piss-poor Mummy reboot, a very good self-contained Invisible Man movie, and…is Dracula Untold considered part of the Universe? I digress. We’ve got next to nothing, so I say yes.
Anyway, this wild idea may forever go unnoticed on my blog—a dream in my head that I decided to write down. But in the off chance that someone at Universal comes across my blog, sees this, and likes it, then give me a call because we could really make some magic together. 😉