Four Female Directors taking on Classic Monsters

By Tom Moore

Classic horror monsters are making quite a comeback with a slew of new films fitting for the modern era of horror. Although Universal’s plans for a Dark Universe didn’t work out with “The Mummy” (2017), there was revitalized hope for the return of monstrous icons when Leigh Whannell excellently modernized “The Invisible Man”(2020). The film superbly gave the horror icon a more modernized, sci-fi horror approach and had a strong narrative with horrifying themes of gaslighting and abuse. Now, there’s renewed interest in classic monsters making a return and there are plenty of adaptations heading our way soon – four of them being female directed.

Four prominent female directors are currently set to helm upcoming classic monster movies. Two of them are modern horror legends, another is lighting up the world with Oscar wins and a big MCU debut on the horizon, and the last is a familiar name is looking for a big breakout behind the camera. We’ve got four big female-directed horror flicks on the way, so there’s no better time than now to delve into each one to see what they could offer.

Blumhouse is looking to do more reboots of Universal’s lot of monsters, and they’ve already got a reboot of “Dracula” in the works from modern horror master Karyn Kusama. The “Jennifer’s Body”(2009) and “The Invitation”(2015) director is set to helm a new “Dracula” film and while the film is still in early production, fans of Kusama are already hyped to see her vision of “Dracula”. Given Kusama’s ability to create slow-building psychological tension and her experience in crafting blood-thirsty monsters, “Dracula” seems right up her alley and she’s already given us some details about what to expect. During an appearance on the Stephen King-centric podcast, “The Kingcast”, Kusama stated that her adaptation would remain faithful, but have some alterations surrounding the titular vampire.

When asked if the different perspectives and voices in Stoker’s novel would be a part of her adaptation, Kusama said “I think, something that gets overlooked in adaptations of “Dracula in the past is the idea of multiple voices. In fact, the book is filled with different points of view, and the one point of view we don’t get access to, and most adaptations give access to, is Dracula himself. So, I would just say, in some respect, this is going to be an adaptation called “Dracula, but it’s perhaps not the same kind of romantic hero that we’ve seen in past interpretations of “Dracula.”

While this doesn’t give us all the juicy details we’re eagerly awaiting, Kusama’s statement sheds some light on how she’s planning to modernize the classic tale by ripping away the romantic trappings of the character to deliver a more personal, horror-focused take on the character. Perhaps it could be something akin to the story told in Netflix’s heavily underrated “Dracula” adaptation where Claes Bang absolutely killed it as the Count. At this point, there’s still no casting for Dracula, himself, and while many are hoping to see a “Destroyer”(2018) reunion between Kusama and Sebastian Stan, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an “Invitation” reunion between Kusama and Logan Marshall-Green.

Elizabeth Banks’ two initial directorial outings didn’t exactly give her the breakout behind the camera she was probably looking for as “Pitch Perfect 2”(2015) is stuck in the original’s shadow and her “Charlie Angels”(2019) reboot wasn’t beloved by many. Perhaps, third time’s the charm for Banks though and her next trek as a director helming a reboot of “The Invisible Woman” could be that breakout outing. Now, it’s important to note that Banks’ “Invisible Woman” adaptation won’t be connected to Whannel’s film or be produced by Blumhouse as it is solely coming from Universal. Frankly, I think its for the better since Banks doesn’t have to follow in Whannel’s footsteps and will be given more room to make the titular horror figure her own.

There are still no plot details to talk about but Banks’ description of her original pitch in which she describes the tone as “American Psycho”(2000) meets “Thelma & Louise” (1991) is an interesting combination. Frankly, this actually doesn’t sound far off from the plot of the 1940 original of a department store model becoming invisible from an experiment and then using this new power to get revenge against her cruel boss and falling into a caper with gangsters. Now, the original was more comedic, and it seems like Universal’s trying to keep a darker, horror-driven tone with their films. However, maybe having Banks also in the leading role as well as behind the camera could have her bring her unique comedic charm to her adaptation and make “The Invisible Woman” a real breakout moment for her career.

After grabbing the attention of the entire horror community with her 2017 breakout hit “Tigers are Not Afraid”, fans have been anxiously awaiting to see writer/director Issa Lopez’s western werewolf horror project. While the film isn’t specifically based on “The Wolfman”, the combination of westerns and werewolves makes Lopez’s currently unnamed project worth talking about here – especially the big name she’s working with on it. Lopez is collaborating with horror legend Guillermo del Toro, likely in a producing or possibly writing role, to make her western werewolf story come to life.

We’ve seen aliens face off against cowboys and even zombies head into western settings, but Lopez’s werewolf western feels like a whole new breed being born. In an interview on Collider’s “The Witching Hour” (which you can see above), Lopez talks about how westerns and werewolf stories contains some similar themes and ideas surrounding repressing something darker and trying to conquer higher powers. At the very least, Lopez has described her story as dark, violent fun which is all we need to know that something special is on the horizon.

Even with Kusama already tackling a “Dracula” adaptation for Blumhouse, Universal is actually having a competing “Dracula” adaptation of their own. An odd choice to say the least, but it being helmed by “Nomadland” and “Eternals” director Chloe Zhao makes it much more intriguing. Zhao is hitting quite a stride in her career as she’s hot off an Oscar clean-up with “Nomadland”(2020) and ready to make her MCU debut with “Eternals”(2021), but this “Dracula” movie adds a whole other layer to her filmography.

Zhao’s interpretation of “Dracula” will be different than any previous incarnation as it’s being described as an original futuristic, sci-fi western, which immediately gets your wheels turning as to what that exactly means. I can’t even imagine what that looks like but knowing that Zhao is behind it gives an admirably ambitious feel and with it also supposedly carrying themes of being on the fringes of society, a prevalent aspect of Zhao’s films, it feels like she could deliver a “Dracula” story for the ages. It’s tough to say when we’ll see more on this given that Universal’s already going to be busy with Kusama’s “Dracula” and Zhao’s going to have her time likely split with this and Marvel, but it’s certainly one to watch out for.

Whether they’re far into the future or just around the corner, there’s definitely a resurgence coming for classic movie monsters and these four female-directed takes could be at the forefront. Hopefully there will be more to talk about these movies in the future and maybe even more than four female takes on classic horror monsters in the near future.

 Reference links:

Karyn Kusama quote: https://www.syfy.com/syfy-wire/dracula-director-karyn-kusama-adaptation
– Elizabeth Banks info on Invisible Woman: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-features/elizabeth-banks-star-direct-universals-invisible-woman-1258153/
– Issa Lopez interview video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U2NHU7-RSk
– Chloe Zhao article: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/nomadland-filmmaker-chloe-zhao-tackling-sci-fi-western-dracula-for-universal-exclusive-4127648/

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