As you may know by now, Universal is on the verge of launching cinema’s next big “connected universe” of franchises. The project will kick off with 2017’s remake of The Mummy, which stars Tom Cruise and is expected to be released in early June. Naturally, there’s a little bit of spookiness attached to any project about ancient mummies coming to life, and this probably won’t be a movie for little kids. If you recall the 1999 version, or if you’ve seen the trailer for the reboot, you know that this is more of an action/fantasy epic than a horror flick. It’s probably going to be about as “scary” as, say, Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl.
But there’s one aspect of The Mummy that’s particularly interesting for anyone hoping to see a scarier side of Universal’s monster universe down the line. Russell Crowe was somewhat quietly added to the cast and tagged with the role of one Dr. Henry Jekyll. As in, the Dr. Henry Jekyll from the iconic horror tale of Jekyll and Hyde.
These are characters who seem to have relatively little to do with the saga of The Mummy, and in fact they’re characters who have mostly been left behind by pop culture and modern fiction. Originally, Jekyll and Hyde (who really amount to a single character) hail from an acclaimed novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, titled The Curious Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. In case you’re unfamiliar, this is the tale of a brilliant doctor (Jekyll) who routinely turns himself into a sinister, sociopathic figure named Hyde via a potion. It has become so well known that this list of the best horror stories by Stevenson left it off so as not to overshadow the rest.
On the screen, there have been direct and indirect adaptations of this tale pretty much every decade for about 100 years—but no single version stands out. The 1999 film Mary Reilly, starring Julia Roberts, John Malkovich, and Michael Gambon earned some acclaim from one critic as a unique twist on the story, and a 1990 TV movie starring Michael Caine did okay. But if you ask a movie buff about a Jekyll and Hyde movie, he or she probably won’t know what version you’re asking about. There’s just not a definitive go-to project.
If anything, it’s online gaming that has best kept this tale alive for the younger generations. There’s a Jekyll and Hyde-themed slot game that has made the rounds on some casino sites online, and this site reveals it to be a pretty dark and intriguing experience. For those who aren’t familiar with this branch of the gaming industry, it’s actually quite common for popular stories, shows, and movies to be used as a backdrop for slot gaming. In this case, the fantasy-infused Victorian atmosphere of this game puts it above most of its peers. It’s not as if it’s telling the full story to players, but it may at least be keeping a certain audience aware of the character(s).
The appearance of Henry Jekyll in a major, big budget film along with the name of a major Hollywood superstar has to give fans of classic horror a little bit of hope. We don’t know too much about how The Mummy will be presented, but it seems as if Crowe’s Jekyll is primarily a supporting character at this time. What’s interesting is that Universal would hardly introduce such a big name without the intent to develop him, and his own story, later on.
If that idea should come to fruition, we may yet see this monster universe eventually embrace a legitimate horror story. Simply put, there is no Jekyll without Hyde, and there are no Jekyll and Hyde without some dark moments and genuine scares.