In an exciting bit of recent news, Ryan Gosling has boarded Universal’s new take on The Wolfman, following the box office success of Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man. The Wolfman will be written by Blumhouse founder Jason Blum’s wife, Lauren Schuker Blum, and her fellow Orange Is The New Black co-writer Rebecca Angelo. The pitch in the vein of 2014’s Nightcrawler and 1976’s Network was reportedly made by the La La Land Best Actor-nominee himself. Picks for the director are in the works over at the studio, but word is the filmmaker behind indie-thriller Thoroughbreds and HBO’s recent release Bad Education, Cory Finley, could helm the project.
Just like Universal’s other classic movie monsters, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon or The Mummy, The Wolfman has been subject to resting within these cartoon-y archetypes. I’m not going to say campy horror is dead, but the place where the genre has currently found the most success and acclaim is in “elevated horror.” This subgenre influenced The Invisible Man’s subtle brilliance and could be where The Wolfman is headed too.
Universal has had a margin of error the past few years as it has attempted to revamp its classic horror properties. This was namely with 2017’s The Mummy flopping hard and completely imploding the studio’s original plans to create an interconnected universe of monster movies called the Dark Universe, with Dwayne Johnson once being rumored to tackle The Wolfman. Ryan Gosling’s new project is said to be about an anchorman who ends up becoming the famed werewolf and creates havoc, only to return to his day job to report on the happenings. Here’s what it can learn from fellow Universal horror tale The Invisible Man:
The Wolfman Doesn’t Have To Be A Sympathetic Monster
One characterization of classic monster movies is how often the audience is trained to sympathize with the titular character. Often these stories center on creatures who have been unfairly transformed into villains by society or circumstance. It’s a popular theme that has run through various iterations of the genre, and has perhaps contributed to our tired look at properties such as Frankenstein or Dracula. Isn’t it time that we make these characters horrifying again?
The Invisible Man just became the perfect example of this by making Oliver Jackson Cohen’s Adrian Griffin a truly despicable human who stalks Elisabeth Moss’ Cecilia Kass with his invisibility technology. By shifting the story into her perspective and making the character into something viewers could jump up at instead of this image of a character with bandages over his face and glasses. I think Ryan Gosling needs to be a relentless Wolfman. Maybe he’s so bloodthirsty about chasing after the story and keeping his job in the ever-changing world of journalism, he truly becomes a monster on the inside and out.
Give An Old Property A Modern And Timely Spin
Jumping off that point, The Invisible Man did a marvelous job of creatively illustrating a scary and very real modern issue of abusive relationships and stalking. Having an ex-significant other loom over someone, whether through internet stalking, actual stalking or manipulative maneuvers, is an actual fear many people have when they leave relationships or have already experienced. The Invisible Man also tackled how abuse allegations are often met with disbelief from peers or officials. As Elisabeth Moss once put it:
You literally have a man who is invisible, you can’t see him, she’s saying he’s there, that he’s attacking her, abusing her, manipulating her, and everyone around her is saying, ‘Relax. It’s fine.’ And she keeps saying, ‘No, he is – he’s alive, he’s doing this,’ and no-one believes her. The analogy is incredibly clear.
No other Invisible Man iteration has tackled the weight of how much the character can lean into society’s everyday fears. My hope is Ryan Gosling’s The Wolfman also goes with a modern spin on an important issue. I can already see it taking on the “fake news” route, since the character may be inventing his own version of reporting after committing crimes himself.
Low-Budget Horror Is Still Incredibly Effective
The Invisible Man was made on a crazy-low budget of $7 million. When watching the 2020 movie, it feels more expensive than that, but it certainly doesn’t have the scale of a film like IT: Chapter 2 or 2017’s The Mummy. Leigh Whannell’s film benefited from its small price tag not only from the studio’s point of view of making a huge return investment, but also because low-budget horror is still an effective form of storytelling.
With the casting of Ryan Gosling in the horror property, and following the success of The Invisible Man, Universal might be more inclined to throw more money at the project. But there’s something about scrappy horror filmmaking that The Wolfman could benefit from. Using prosthetics instead of a CGI werewolf look is a good example of this. Plus, the practical stunts achieved in Invisible Man turned out great.
The Wolfman Doesn’t Owe Anything To Its Lore
One reason 2010's The Wolfman adaptation starring Benecio del Toro may have suffered at the box office, and by critics and fans' standards, is it relied heavily on the character’s roots and forgot why the character appealed to fans. The decade-old horror film was a period piece that bored and didn’t offer anything new to the property. The facts are the “werewolf” story is no longer a sacred one. It’s been done and done again.
The Invisible Man is proof audiences would rather see a film that completely spins a horror classic on its head if it means we’ll be shocked and entertained then stick to the book and source material. I hope Ryan Gosling’s The Wolfman doesn’t linger on the lore of the werewolf and runs free with its concept.
Universal Monster Movies Should Remain Filmmaker Driven
Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade is how the filmmaker got into the room with Universal on conversations for The Invisible Man. The studio already had plans to reboot the property, but it was the writer/director’s input with the executives that brought about a new idea for the story. After the release of The Invisible Man, word is that Universal is loosening restrictions on ideas for their classic monster properties and looking for takes that think outside the box. My hope is Ryan Gosling’s The Wolfman will continue this trend for Universal.
Cory Finley is a particularly good choice because of his unique voice in Thoroughbreds, which is an underrated thriller and dark comedy about two teens who hatch a violent plan to solve their own problems with the help of the late Anton Yelchin’s drug dealer character. We’ll be following updates on The Wolfman closely here on CinemaBlend, so check back for more updates!