By Rick Davis
For almost 100 years, Universal Pictures has branded itself as the studio with horror icons starting with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney and continuing with monster franchises like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon, often featuring Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr.
And now, following in the footsteps of Marvel and DC creating their respective Cinematic Universes, Universal is creating its own movie brand featuring its monsters called Dark Universe. It all starts with a reboot of its most successful monster of late, The Mummy. Up until 2012, there were plans for third sequel to the Brendan Fraser films, but then a reboot was greenlit with a darker story and Alex Kurtzman (Mission Impossible 3, Star Trek) hired to co-write, produce and direct. Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe star alongside Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Star Trek Beyond) as Princess Amunet/The Mummy, loosely based on the ancient Egyptian goddess of the same name. Whereas the Brendan Fraser trilogy was set in the 1920s-1940s and was high adventure like Indiana Jones, the reboot is set in modern Egypt and London, with a darker and more sinister tone but bigger action set pieces that Cruise is known for. The Mummy is expected to kick-start Universal’s Dark Universe with future films featuring Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invisible Man, Van Helsing, Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and, of course, Dracula.
If you are looking for more frights than action, check out the acclaimed It Comes at Night. This psychological thriller stars Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings, Loving) as a man who thinks his family is secure in a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world. The tenuous domestic order he has established with his wife and son is put to the ultimate test with the arrival of a young family seeking refuge. Despite efforts from both families, paranoia and mistrust boil over as the horrors outside creep ever-closer.
Megan Leavey is likely going to be the best movie this weekend that very few will go see. Based on the true-life story of a young marine corporal (Kate Mara) whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. After being assigned to clean up the K9 unit as a disciplinary measure, Leavey comes across an aggressive dog and is given the chance to train him. She develops as relationship of trust and together they complete over 100 missions until an I.E.D. injures both and threatens to pull them apart.
In My Cousin Rachel, Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Me Before You) stars as a young Englishman who plots revenge against his mysterious, beautiful cousin (Rachel Weisz), believing she murdered his guardian. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms. Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill), this dark romance already has critics noticing.