Will the Creators of ‘Saw’ Shape the Future of Universal Monsters?

Considering the studio’s history in horror, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise Universal has found one of its greatest profit margins in the genre. In recent years, the studio has even accomplished what almost all its competitors have tried and failed to do. In the age of Marvel Studios, it created a commercially successful and viable shared universe based on director James Wan’s 2013 film The Conjuring.

Now Universal is poised to duplicate that success in the unlikeliest of ways. The box office success of writer/director Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man could lead to a full-on resurgence of the classic Universal Monsters. All signs certainly point to the revival of Dracula, the Wolf Man, and company. And it’s looking likely Wan and Whannell could be at the center of it.

James Wan and Leigh Whannell
James Wan and Leigh Whannell | Kevork Djansezian/WireImage

James Wan and Leigh Whannell created ‘Saw’ and ‘Insidious’

Of course, Wan and Whannell have a long-running collaborative relationship. The duo had a tremendous impact on horror when they worked together on the Saw franchise. Wan directed the 2004 original film and continues to produce the series. Meanwhile, Whannell both starred in the first film and wrote the first three entries in the series.

Then again in 2010, Wan and Whannell created another popular horror franchise, Insidious. Wan directed the first two films and has remained involved as a producer. Whannell, on the other hand, has starred in and written all four Insidious films to date. 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3 even served as his feature directorial debut.

We don’t have any indication just yet whether Wan and Whannell will collaborate on future Universal Monsters movies. However, considering how their fruitful working relationship and connection with Universal, it seems likely they might connect down the line.

‘The Invisible Man’ brought the Universal Monsters back to life

A year ago, the potential return of the Universal Monsters felt like a pipe dream. Of course, the studio had attempted a big-budget launch of the “Dark Universe” back in 2017. With Tom Cruise leading a spectacle-heavy version of The Mummy, how could they miss? Yet, the film fell flat and killed any prospects for a shared universe.

Enter The Invisible Man. By taking a stripped-down approach to the prospect of an unseen tormentor, Whannell tapped into a primal terror. Moreover, he updated the tale to modern times, focusing on the victim of an abusive relationship. In doing so, The Invisible Man felt like a top-to-bottom refresh of the concept, making it incredibly relevant.

With its success so fresh, it’s unclear how Universal will proceed with its Universal Monsters. The studio already has a few projects in the works, including Elizabeth Banks’ The Invisible Woman. That film could be a comedic take on the 1940 original and is unrelated to Whannell’s. Likewise, Paul Feig is developing Dark Army, and Dexter Fletcher has a movie centered on Dracula’s henchman Renfield.

James Wan is shepherding at least one new monster movie

Perhaps Universal will take a cue from Warner Bros.’ DC Films. Just as Joker is disconnected from the greater DC Extended Universe, might the studio keep some monster movies siloed away? For now, the focus on standalone features rather than a ham-handed shared continuity works far better. And the addition of Wan to the Universal Monsters family opens all kinds of possibilities.

We’d previously heard Wan was attached to a new take on Frankenstein, possibly with Tom Hardy involved. Though he’s not directing, a new report from The Hollywood Reporter certainly sounds like it builds on that talk. Wan’s upcoming monster movie reportedly combines the classic Universal Monsters with a modern sensibility. And its story focuses on “a group of teens who discover that a neighbor is building a monster in his basement.”

That sounds an awful lot like a new Frankenstein to us. And what’s more, it could be taking a cue from Whannell’s film. A darker, modern reinterpretation of Mary Shelley’s work feels noticeably inspired by The Invisible Man. If this is the case, Universal could be counting on the creators of Saw and Insidious to steer its Universal Monsters forward.

We don’t expect Whannell or Wan to direct a ton of the upcoming projects. But since Whannell’s film might have created the template — and considering Wan’s instrumental role in shaping The Conjuring franchise — the studio would be wise to get them to spearhead the future of Universal Monsters. Here’s hoping that winds up being the ultimate plan.