Quietly, Universal is moving pieces around its massive movie board to create a Marvel-esque shared universe where iconic horror characters would interact in a series of films. The experiment was supposed to kick start with Gary Shore's Dracula Untold, but that movie didn't catch on. So Universal started breaking out the big guns, which is why we now have Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Russell Crowe attached to movies built around The Mummy and The Invisible Man.
Also part of that growing (yet still mysterious) shared universe scheme is a Van Helsing movie that has been penned by Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer. This would be different from the Hugh Jackman-led Van Helsing of 2004, and is rumored to have a connection to the shared universe that should re-launch with The Mummy in 2017. During a recent chat with Heisserer about his brilliant sci-fi drama, I asked if his Van Helsing was, for sure, part of this expanding cinematic world, and he confirmed to me:
It is right now. This is early in the process, and it's evolutionary. I don't know if that's going to stay that way. But right now there is an absolute... there's some cartilage that links it to other pieces, like The Mummy.
And when I pressed him that it only makes sense to develop a monster fighter alongside a new crop of monster movies, he replied, "Exactly."
Abraham Van Helsing was first mentioned way back in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. The professor is integral to the origin story of Count Dracula, and he leads a group of men and women against the timeless vampire. Over the years, Van Helsing's legacy has evolved, and he now carries the banner of a Monster Hunter, almost in a swashbuckling sense.
Part of that has to do with the way that the character was portrayed in pieces of pop-culture media: primarily, a 2004 blockbuster starring Hugh Jackman and; to a lesser degree, when he was played by Anthony Hopkins or Christopher Plummer in films such as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and Dracula 2000.
The character of Van Helsing would be very important to a developing Universal Horror Shared Universe, but so much of that process depends on The Mummy connecting with a larger audience than Dracula Untold did. For various reasons, we believe that it will. For starters, it's being headlined by Tom Cruise. It also co-stars Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, and packs support from Sofia Boutella (as the mummy), Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson and Courtney B. Vance. Finally, Universal has slotted The Mummy into a prime summer weekend window, opening it in theaters on June 9, 2017.
If it takes off, it sounds like Eric Heisserer's Van Helsing could be another step in a larger Universal Horror Movies shared universe, and I, for one, am very excited by that prospect. Are you?