The Universal Monster-verse is really starting to take shape as more news about one of the reboots, Van Helsing, becomes available. In late October, Eric Heisserer (one of the screenwriters) did confirm that the film will be part of the Universal’s shared universe. With no real plot details or casting announcements just yet, Heisserer did reveal Mad Max: Fury Road as a major inspiration for their version of the character of Van Helsing.
Jon Spaihts, the other screenwriter for Van Helsing, already has his hand in the Universal monster-verse, tackling screenwriting duties for The Mummy, which is set for a summer 2017 release. That film will be the jumping off point for the new monsters, and it stars Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella as a gender-swapped female mummy.
Van Helsing is the second film of the Universal Shared Monster-verse to confirm that it will take place in the present day. Spaihts, who also co-wrote Prometheus and Doctor Strange, and was lead writer on Passengers, spoke to Collider about Van Helsing and his hopes for the character in the larger scope of the shared monster-verse. He said:
“[Van Helsing is] a new creation, so it doesn’t owe much of a debt to prior films. But it is still a very romantic departure from the character as incepted in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, where [he] was a Dutch doctor who figures out a very surprising answer to an odd medical question. This is a monster hunter with encyclopedic knowledge. It’s set in the present day and it’s just filled with good stuff I’m not allowed to talk about. But I’m very excited about this new incarnation of Van Helsing, and I hope that as the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe begins to take flight, we’ll see him cropping up in other stories, as well.”
As Spaihts notes, Van Helsing has the least amount of background of the rest of the characters being brought together in this monster-verse. Apart from his role in the Dracula mythology, the character received his own origin story in the 2004 film starring Hugh Jackman. Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, this film included Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, and werewolves — all characters fans will be seeing rebooted via Universal over the next few years.
While there’s no “classic” movie to work from, Van Helsing does have source material and a good starting point. With the confirmation that the film will be set in modern times, Spaihts is excited at the prospect of something that could be considered real horror. Echoing Russell Crowe’s earlier comments about the tone of this new monster-verse, he adds:
“Even to go back to the original Universal Monster movies with Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff, they were not really terrifying even then. Maybe sensibilities were different and people were easier to scare at the time. But [those classic films were] slow; they’re parlor stories for the most part — not terrifying in modern terms. [Now] we’ve gotten really good at scaring people in movies. So, the nice thing about The Mummy is that it has the swash-buckling action-adventure character of a modern epic action movie, but it’s legit terrifying. It will scare you.”
The modern day aspect and scarier tone seem to further distance this series from Dracula Untold, which many believed was to be the first of the Universal reboots.
The Mummy will open in U.S. theaters on June 9th, 2017, followed by Untitled Universal Monster Franchise Films on April 13th, 2018 and February 15th, 2019. Van Helsing does not yet have a release date.