The Universal monster movies were the first shared cinematic universe, so it makes sense to follow Marvel's lead and reboot all the original franchises so that the creatures can cross over into each others' films. So far, the reboot has brought us some good news (Sofia Boutella as the Mummy, Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's Monster) and some bad (Tom Cruise). But if Universal wants to fully mine the potential of this universe, they should go beyond the classics and look to the sequels, which became increasingly bizarre as concepts ran dry and budgets shrank. Here are some ways the studio can have some fun with its own creations—while staying true to the crazy spirit of the originals.
Dr. Pretorius's Mini-Monsters
In Frankenstein's first sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, our favorite mad scientist is assisted by a colleague, Dr. Pretorius. In one weird, dream-like scene, Dr. P shows his pal some of his own unnatural creations: Tiny people! There's a king and queen, a ballerina, a mermaid, and a devil. This is awesome and insane, but even more insane? These creatures never come back. They're never seen or mentioned again, in this film or any sequels. Universal should definitely bring back these mini-monsters; After all, they could kick Tinkerbell's ass and probably make a good showing against Ant-Man.
Dracula Has a Maybe-Lesbian Daughter
Women get short shrift in the Universal horror universe. The Bride of Frankenstein, for example, is only on screen for about five minutes, and Dracula's brides never returned in the sequels. Which is why Dracula's Daughter stands out. She's a vampire, but she's a sympathetic character who wants be rid of her curse. But first, she attacks a young art model who poses for her, and then kidnaps the girlfriend of the "hero" in order to lure him into an eternal romance. Universal knew the gay undertones of the film would sell, using taglines like "Save the women of London from Dracula's daughter!" and "She gives you that weird feeling!" Very few of the Marvel characters are related, so creating a family tree with generations of curses would be a cool way for Universal to stand out.
The Mummy Moves to Louisiana
We associate the Mummy with Egypt of course, and maybe London and New York because of the museums there. But how about the cursed undead priest stalking the countryside of...Mapleton, Massachusetts? Three films take place in that fictional town because that's where the scientists brought the body after the first chapter. But if that isn't odd enough, The Mummy's Curse moves the action to the swamps of Louisiana. No reason is given. It's as if the writers forgot that Creole folklore offers perfectly good undead monsters to fight. Not surprisingly, this dud was the last installment in the franchise. But that doesn't mean Universal can't be creative with its locales. Maybe werewolves in Dallas? Witches in Chicago? The Invisible Man in Miami?
Dr. Frankenstein Becomes a Ghost
Dr. Frankenstein's whole mission was to conquer death. Turns out that's not a problem because ghosts are real! That's the message we get from Ghost of Frankenstein, one of the most misleading titles in cinema history. The only ghost is that of the original Dr. F, who appears to his son as a ghost—in just one scene!—and begs him to save his murderous creature by giving it a good brain, instead of trying to destroy it. Ghosts are certainly missing from the Universal canon, so now is a perfect opportunity to introduce a spectral character, either as a friend or foe. Besides, I hear ghosts are very big these days.
The Gill-Man Becomes a Theme Park Exhibit and Then Wears Clothes
The Creature from the Black Lagoon was the last classic Universal monster. Its two sequels were varying degrees of odd. In Revenge of the Creature, the Gill-Man is captured and placed in a Florida theme park, where he falls in love with one of his trainers, kills another, and escapes (a cautionary tale Sea World seems to have finally grasped). In The Creature Walks Among Us, surgery gives the Gill-Man the ability to breathe on land and develop human-like skin. That's enough for the scientists who found him to let him wear clothes like a regular guy... though just a few days ago he was a marine park attraction. The human-ish version of the creature is completely ridiculous and not scary, and the franchise went no further. However, the question of "When should an animal be treated like a human?" has some relevance today, and could be an interesting twist on the standard monster story.
Everyone Gets to Be a Monster
Bela Lugosi originated the role of Dracula. But he later played the Frankenstein Monster and the deranged human Ygor. Boris Karloff originated the role of the Monster but also played the Mummy. Lon Chaney, Jr. originated the role of the Wolfman but also played the Monster and the Mummy. This rotation gives the Universal monster universe the charming feel of a repertory company. Why not bring back the idea? After all, Chris Evans has already played two Marvel superheroes: the Human Torch and Captain America (though, yes, that first one wasn't an official MCU film). If you like Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man—maybe that's a big "if"—how about seeing him as the Phantom of the Opera?
Did I forget any weird or wonderful elements of the classic movies? Let me know in the comments.