It’s alive! Or is it? Universal Pictures is once again drawing on its library of classic movie monsters with this weekend’s Renfield, a comedic take on the Dracula mythology. It comes after the studio tried, and failed, to launch a whole shared universe based on these characters in 2017 with The Mummy. Since then, Universal has slowed down and approached the characters on more of a film-by-film basis. So six years later, what’s the overall status of these iconic characters — from Dracula and Frankenstein to the Wolfman — on the big screen? Beyond Renfield, here are the other Universal projects that could soon be monster-mashing their way into theaters:
‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’
Renfield actually isn’t the only Dracula film from Universal debuting in 2023. There’s also The Last Voyage of the Demeter, which is based on one specific chapter from the original Bram Stoker novel called “The Captain’s Log.” The film centers on the crew of a ship called the Demeter, who are stalked by a “merciless presence.” In the 1897 novel, Count Dracula boards the ship on his way to England, and the book switches to the captain’s log as the crew starts disappearing. Corey Hawkins, Liam Cunningham, Aisling Franciosi, and David Dastmalchian star alongside Javier Botet, who has been cast as Dracula. André Øvredal, who previously helmed the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie, directs the film, which is scheduled for release on Aug. 11.
A mysterious monster movie from the directors of ‘Scream’
Radio Silence, the team behind the 2022 Scream revival and this year’s Scream VI, was reported to be working on a new Universal monster movie in April 2023, and Scream‘s Melissa Barrera will reportedly star. We don’t know much about it yet, but The Hollywood Reporter said the project was “at one point titled Dracula’s Daughter” and “centered on a group of kidnappers who abduct a band of young people, one of whom ends up being the titular character. Woe then befalls the kidnappers.” It’s not clear if this is still the plot of the current version, but Universal said it will be one of its movies that provides a “unique take on legendary monster lore and will represent a fresh, new direction for how to celebrate these classic characters.”
Radio Silence seemed to be referring to this project in a March interview with Dead Meat, where they said they’d be heading to Ireland in “a few weeks” to start working on a Universal film. “It starts out as a crime thriller and it gets hijacked by a monster movie,” director Tyler Gillett said, calling the movie a “new way into an old thing.”
A ‘Wolfman’ movie starring Ryan Gosling
Since 2020, Ryan Gosling has been attached to star in a Wolfman reboot, and Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines) was tapped to direct in 2021. Gosling told Collider it’s a role he has always wanted to play. “He’s just an all-time character,” he said. “Just has always been on a bucket list for me.” This Wolfman is said to be set in the modern day, as opposed to being another period piece like the 2010 version starring Benicio del Toro, according to Deadline, which also said Gosling pitched the idea himself. Variety compared the project to the Jake Gyllenhaal film Nightcrawler, but “with an obvious supernatural twist.”
A sci-fi Western ‘Dracula’ movie from Chloé Zhao
Nomadland and Eternals director Chloé Zhao was revealed to be working on another new take on Dracula in 2021, which was described as an “original, futuristic, sci-fi Western,” per The Hollywood Reporter. “Chloé’s singular lens shines a light on stories of the overlooked and misunderstood,” Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer said at the time. “We are thrilled to be working with her as she reimagines one of the most iconic outsider characters ever created.” Zhao also said she has “always been fascinated by vampires and the concept of the Other they embody.” There haven’t been many updates since then, though in March 2023, Zhao confirmed it’s still happening. “I’m writing the script right now,” she told the Reporter.
An original monster movie from Paul Feig
In 2019, Deadline reported that Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) was working on a new monster movie for Universal called Dark Army, which was said to be based on an original idea. “The project will include characters from Universal’s classic monster library and original characters created by Feig,” Deadline said. “That’s the genre that I’ve been wanting to do forever, just a classic monster movie,” he told Collider in 2021. “Not a horror movie, but a classic monster movie in the tradition of the James Whale and Tod Browning movies.”
The most recent update came in October 2022, when Feig told The Playlist he’s “desperate” to make the film. “I’m such a fan of the old James Whale classic monster movies from Universal,” he said. “And this was my ode to that but with new characters. I think the studio felt it might be too expensive. I don’t agree. I just have to convince them.” He added that he’s “not giving up” on the film, but “I probably need to go in and do another draft and try to make it a little cheaper, I guess.”
An ‘Invisible Woman’ movie from Elizabeth Banks
Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man was a big hit in 2020, and even before its release, Elizabeth Banks was reportedly in talks to direct and star in a Universal movie called Invisible Woman. This, though, was said to be “very different” from The Invisible Man with no connection to it, Variety reported. But it’s unclear if this will still be made, and Banks told Insider in February 2023, “Nothing is happening with that one right now.” There has also been talk of a proper sequel to The Invisible Man, which would presumably bring back Elisabeth Moss as the lead, but there also hasn’t been much movement on that lately as far as we know.
A possible ‘Frankenstein’ movie from James Wan
Also in 2019, The Conjuring director James Wan was reported to be producing a new version of Frankenstein for Universal. A few months later, The Hollywood Reporter said Wan was working with Universal on a monster movie about “a group of teens who discover that a neighbor is building a monster in his basement,” though this report never mentioned Frankenstein, so it wasn’t clear if these two projects are the same.
Though it’s not a Universal movie, it’s worth mentioning that Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) is developing his own Frankenstein film for Netflix. Andrew Garfield, Oscar Isaac, and Mia Goth were reportedly in talks to star in March 2023, and the director shared photos of himself location scouting in April. As far back as 2008, Del Toro noted he’s been “dreaming of doing a Frankenstein movie since I was a child.”
A new ‘Van Helsing’ movie from Julius Avery
James Wan was also reportedly developing a new Van Helsing movie about the titular monster hunter in 2020, when Deadline reported Julius Avery (Overlord) would direct. He told Fangoria in April 2023 he’s “currently writing” the film.
A live-action and animation hybrid called ‘Little Monsters’
As of 2020, Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley was working on a “live-action and animation hybrid” film that would “bring Universal’s classic monster movie characters to a new generation,” The Wrap reported. It was reportedly called Little Monsters, though no, it doesn’t have anything to do with Lady Gaga … as far as we know, at least.
A ‘tongue-in-cheek thriller’ starring Channing Tatum
In November 2020, Deadline reported Channing Tatum would reunite with 21 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller to star in a new Universal monster project, which was described as a “modern-day, tongue-in-cheek thriller inspired by Universal’s classic monster legacy.” So this sounds like another film in the Renfield mold, but other details, including what monster this project is based on, weren’t revealed.
A ‘Monster Mash’ musical movie
Director Matt Stawski has apparently been working in the lab late various nights on a Universal musical called Monster Mash, which was reported to be in the works in 2020. Not much is known about it, but Stawski told Collider in November 2022 that the script is in development and that he was inspired by watching the classic Universal monster movies and Hammer films “hundreds” of times. “We’re really playing with the monsters and making sure that we can sort of subvert everyone’s expectations,” he said. “And maybe they’re going to go into the theater expecting one thing, but we’re going to throw a curveball at you.” Fingers crossed it’s a graveyard smash.