James Gunn isn’t just a comic book guy, he’s also a horror guy. His film career began in the hallowed halls of Troma, where low-budget, ultraviolent, and super sleazy movies were everybody’s bread and butter. After writing the surprisingly good “Tromeo and Juliet,” he segued into screenwriting for major studios, concocting the family-friendly “Scooby-Doo” live-action monster movies, Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake, and uncredited rewrites on the William Castle remake, “Thirteen Ghosts.”
The odds are extremely slim that Gunn is using the phrase “gods and monsters” without realizing where it comes from. The expression hails from James Whale’s iconic horror movie “The Bride of Frankenstein,” the eighth film in the classic Universal Horror franchise, and the first of many, many sequels that would be produced by the studio.
Picking up where Whale’s original “Frankenstein” left off, “Bride of Frankenstein” finds the Monster (Boris Karloff) returning, becoming more intelligent, and teaming up with the diabolical Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) to force Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) to create a companion. At one point Dr. Pretorius proposes a toast to his plan to populate a world with more supernatural creations, led by mad scientists like himself: “To a new world of gods and monsters.”
And what a world it was. The success of “Bride of Frankenstein,” like the success of Universal’s other horror classics, led to multiple sequels for films like “Frankenstein,” “The Mummy,” and “The Wolf Man,” and eventually into proper crossovers. “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man,” “House of Frankenstein,” and even the various Abbott and Costello comedies all found the iconic monsters meeting, fighting, and sometimes joking around.
It’s a successful template that Gunn and Safran may be consciously copying. Let’s just hope they don’t make the same mistake Universal did.