10 Universal Monster Spin-Off Movies That Stand Up to the Original

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Born in the 20th Century, Universal’s Monster movies have stood as pillars within cinematic history ever since. Not only did the films have a profound impact on the horror genre, but also on film as a whole. Despite the iconic Gothic literature that a lot of the monsters are based on, Universal’s versions of the characters are the ones that have gone on to be the most widely interpreted in popular culture. They went against a lot of filmmaking norms at the time, producing controversial content for its time, while also showing the limitless capabilities of filmmaking through their stellar special effects.

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Because of their popularity, these films set the stage for countless more remakes and spinoffs, some of which are more forgettable than others. However, amongst the crowd, there are a few spinoffs that have not only managed to pay homage to the classics, but also managed to carve out their own pedestal, standing proudly beside them.

10 Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

Frankenstein strangles Wolfman in Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman
Universal Pictures

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a crossover sequel for both The Wolf Man and The Ghost of Frankenstein. The idea of shared universes in film is nothing new, and Universal was one of the first major studios to attempt it with the release of this film. The film takes place four years after the events of The Wolf Man, with Larry Talbot setting off to find Dr. Frankenstein, who he believes can permanently kill him. However, Dr. Frankenstein is dead after the events of The Ghost of Frankenstein, with his monster trapped in a block of ice.

Is Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman a Worthy Crossover?

While it is by no means a perfect film, there is no denying the impact it had on cinema. It started what became known as the Monster Rally, where each of the Universal Monsters began appearing on screen together. This led to films like Hotel Transylvania, as well as setting the precedent for films like Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator. In fact, if you look in the background of one of the earlier scenes in Alien vs. Predator, you can see the film playing on a television at the satellite receiving station.

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9 Renfield (2023)

Renfield
Renfield

Release Date
April 14, 2023

Director
Chris McKay

Rating
R

Director Adam McKay described Renfield as a “quasi-sequel” to Dracula (1931). The film stars Nicholas Hoult as the titular character, taking over from Dwight Frye, as well as Nicolas Cage as Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula. It takes a far more comedic approach to the duo’s relationship, with Renfield beginning to have an existential crisis ninety years later, unable to justify his work for Dracula. He realizes that Dracula has an abusive hold over him, and is determined to break free and live a normal life away from his master.

Why Renfield Is Hilarious and Worth Checking Out

Fans of TV shows like What We Do In The Shadows will likely find something to love about Renfield, given its similarities in humor and modern-day setting. The film initially started off in development hell, when original plans to relaunch a shared monster universe failed following The Mummy (2017). Thankfully, the success of The Invisible Man (2020) pushed Renfield back into development, resulting in one of the most fun and refreshing spin-offs of Dracula (1931) to date. Nicolas Cage has even expressed interest in creating a prequel to Dracula’s origins, showing what led him to become so evil.

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8 Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

Countess Marya Zeleska in Dracula's Daughter
Universal Pictures

Dracula’s Daughter is the first direct sequel to 1931’s Dracula. It follows Countess Marya Zeleska, who is Dracula’s daughter. After learning of her father’s death, Marya burns his body on a funeral pyre, hoping to be free from his vampiric curse. But she soon learns that it will never be possible to live a normal life, and instead decides to conduct a sinister plot to find herself a companion. The film provides quite a unique take on the vampire genre, utilizing more complex themes such as identity and desire to tell its story.

Why Dracula’s Daughter Is a Fantastic Spin-Off

While it wasn’t as commercially successful as Dracula (1931), this spinoff garnered a lot of critical acclaim upon its release. Most notably, Gloria Holden was widely praised for her captivating portrayal of Marya. Additionally, the film also features sapphic undertones, such as in a particular scene between Marya and a character called Lili. This wasn’t common in film at the time, and while it doesn’t play a major part in the film, it’s an interesting insight into how vampires have been used to convey LGBTQ+ storylines throughout history.

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7 She-Wolf of London (1946)

Phyllis Allenby in She-Wolf of London
Universal Pictures

At the time of its release, She-Wolf of London wasn’t directly marketed as a spinoff of The Wolf Man. However, it has since gone on to become largely associated with it, appearing in Wolf Man legacy box sets. It follows a young woman called Phyllis Allenby, who believes that she is a werewolf, haunted by a family curse. When mysterious deaths begin occurring close to her London home, June becomes convinced that she’s responsible for them. However, things aren’t all as they seem, and the truth slowly starts to reveal itself.

What Sets She-Wolf of London Apart from The Wolfman?

What sets this Universal monster movie apart is that it doesn’t actually feature any monsters. This is what ultimately lets it down, especially if fans of The Wolf Man are expected it to have a similar story. However, it stands up to the original purely because of how it seamlessly blends the mystery and horror genres. Sure, it might not feature a werewolf at the heart of the story, but it is still a captivating whodunit nonetheless. Additionally, for a film of its time, it perfectly captures a moody atmosphere.

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Related: 10 Classic Universal Monster Movies That Perfectly Hold Up Today

6 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

a promotional picture for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Universal Pictures

Abbott and Costello met plenty of Universal monsters back in the day, but their rendezvous with Frankenstein’s monster is easily their best. In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, the comedic duo takes on the roles of two baggage clerks, Chick Young and Wilbur Grey. Despite what the title suggests, this film is another Monster Rally movie, featuring Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man, and Dracula. Together, they must do what it takes to thwart the monsters’ sinister plans, with plenty of gags as they go.

A Classic Combination of Comedy and Horror

Albert and Costello Meet Frankenstein is possibly one of the most important Universal Rally movies ever made, despite the fact that it took on a more comedic tone. This is because it was the first film to establish Dracula as the leader of the monsters, which would go on to be replicated in numerous monster movies following it. While Albert and Costello’s subsequent Universal Monster movies were incredibly lackluster, this one undeniably left its mark, with the American Film Institute listing it as the 56th funniest American movie of all time.

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5 The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023)

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is the latest spinoff on this list, and also the scariest. The film is an adaptation of the “Captain’s Log” chapter from Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. It reveals the dark truth of what actually happened aboard the Demeter, showing the crew facing up against Dracula, who is lurking on board. The film does take some creative liberties with the original text, but the changes are worth it and help to add more substance and scares to the quite small source material.

How The Last Voyage of the Demeter Refreshes Dracula’s story

The “Captain’s Log” chapter has been regarded as one of the best chapters in Dracula, not going into too much detail about the events, but leaving just enough to terrify readers. This is the first time the chapter has ever been adapted properly, and it manages to convey the tone and atmosphere of the chapter perfectly, not rushing into its scares and building suspense throughout. It might not feature the quirky Renfield in the same way that Dracula (1931) does, but it provides plenty of subtle nods to other films that have featured the vampire before it.

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4 House of Frankenstein (1944)

Boris Karloff as Dr. Gustav Niemann in House of Frankenstein
Universal Pictures 

Compared to other Monster Rally movies, House of Frankenstein is easily the best. Dr. Gustav Niemann escapes from prison and revives Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster. His plan is to create a brand-new body for his hunchback assistant, Daniel. Initially, the film was supposed to include various Universal villains, before the studio settled on just focusing it around their popular monsters. Originally, it was anticipated that Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi would reprise their roles as the Monster and Dracula, but instead Karloff portrays Niemann and the role of Dracula was given to John Carradine.

Why Does House of Frankenstein Stand Out?

At the time of its release, Universal’s monster movies were on a steady decline. People weren’t interested in them anymore, so they did anything they could to switch up their original formula. It took what people enjoyed about Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man and expanded on it, helping the Monster Rally movies to really start to come into fruition. Though it might not do as good as a job as the later media has managed to, it’s a fantastic companion to the classic monster movies.

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3 The Invisible Woman (1940)

A still from The Invisible Woman
Universal Pictures

Following the release of The Invisible Man and The Invisible Man Returns, Universal decided to take a completely different route with The Invisible Woman. Directed by the iconic Eddie Sutherland, the story follows a model named Kitty Carroll. After inventor Professor Gibbs creates an invisibility device, Kitty becomes one of the first test subjects. Though Kitty’s invisibility eventually wears off, she learns that alcohol restores it completely, leaving her to save the day when a gang steals the device from Professor Gibbs.

The Invisible Woman Is a Fantastic Counterpart to The Invisible Man

Compared to the previous two Invisible Man movies, The Invisible Woman is far more lighthearted and comedic. It completely departs from Universal’s darker approach to invisibility, while still featuring a lot of influences from the science fiction genre. While it’s a bit silly in areas, the film is a clear standout because it dared to take risks. For example, the idea of an invisible woman was a bit too libertine for audiences during that time, and yet it still managed to receive an Oscar nomination for Special Effects. The Invisible Woman is due to get another spin-off directed by Elizabeth Banks, though not many details have been released.

Related: The 10 Best Universal Monster Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes

2 The Mummy’s Hand

A still of Kharis The Mummy's Hand
Universal Pictures

The Mummy’s Hand served as a revival of The Mummy series by Universal. The story follows an archaeologist named Steve Banning, who discovers the tomb of Princess Annaka. However, in doing so, he also stumbles upon the living mummy Kharis. Seeking revenge for the desecration of the tomb, Kharis uses the mystical powers of the sacred tana to stay alive and hunt down the rest of the expedition. However, he isn’t the only person with sinister motives on the crew, as the tana’s ability to grant eternal life begins to corrupt another.

Why You Should Watch The Mummy’s Hand

Given how popular The Mummy (1932) was, it’s amazing that The Mummy’s Hand managed to bring audiences back to the character and lead to more films in the franchise to come out. It does an excellent job of weaving together Egyptian Mythology with tales of love and obsession, while also making Kharis’ situation feel utterly tragic. While the original was loved, it never did enough to solidify the Mummy as one of the more popular Universal Monsters, whereas this film made sure audiences were terrified of it.

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1 Young Frankenstein (1974)

The 1974 horror comedy Young Frankenstein is supposed to serve as a loving parody of the classic Universal Monster movies, particularly focusing on those that featured Frankenstein’s Monster. The film, which was directed by Mel Brooks, focuses on a descendant of Victor Frankenstein, played by the incredible Gene Wilder. At first, Frederick Frankenstein is reluctant to embrace his family’s legacy, though he quickly becomes captivated in reanimating the dead.

Why Young Frankenstein Is the Best Universal Monster Spin-Off

Young Frankenstein has since gone on to be regarded as the best of the Universal spinoffs, blending humor with homage and perfectly capturing the essence of what made classic monster movies so great. The iconic character, Igor, who has become rooted in the Frankenstein mythos, shines the brightest in this film. His iconic “walk this way” line even went on to inspire Aerosmith’s song of the same name, though it originally wasn’t going to be featured in the film. In more recent years, Mel Brooks adapted the film into a musical of the same name, which had a heavily successful run, receiving three Tony Award nominations.

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