Some of Universal’s classic monster movies will be free to watch on the YouTube channel Fear: The Home of Horror, but only for a limited time.
Thanks to distributor NBCUniversal, some of Universal Studios’ most iconic horror classics will soon be free to watch on YouTube. In the 1930s, Universal released a series of hit monster movies that made them synonymous with horror and spawned the genre’s Golden Age, many of which continue to influence American culture.
While scholars have identified plenty of movies from the silent era that could be classified as horror, some have argued that it became a distinct film genre with 1931’s Dracula, which started Universal’s classic run. The studio released Frankenstein later that same year, and the actors behind the two monsters, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, both became stars. While they both featured in other roles for Universal, only Karloff’s portrayal of The Mummy (1932) would sit alongside those two characters in the studio’s monster pantheon, rounded out by Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933), Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man (1941).
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Now, horror fans get the chance to revisit those classics on NBCUniversal’s YouTube channel, Fear: The Home of Horror. According to NME, Dracula and The Mummy will be added on Jan. 15, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein on Jan. 16, and The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, and the comedy-crossover Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) on Jan. 17, all at 3 pm Eastern time. Each of the movies will be free to watch for about a week and it will also cost less to download a digital copy during that time. The channel already offers other classic horror content, ranging from clips and trailers to short documentaries on the monsters themselves.
While this seems like a good way to drum up enthusiasm for some of the studio’s most enduring movies, NBCUniversal has struggled to find ways to update their monsters for today’s audiences. As viewers of Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein will notice, the Universal’s monsters existed in a shared cinematic universe way back in the 1940s and ’50s, but an attempted MCU-style reboot called the Dark Universe stalled with 2017’s The Mummy, a critical and financial flop. Recently, popular horror studio Blumhouse and director Leigh Whannell took a successful crack at updating The Invisible Man, suggesting there might be a future in letting creative filmmakers reinterpret the originals without the pressure of maintaining a shared continuity.
Fans already familiar with these titles will surely relish the chance to watch them again for free, though many more familiar with contemporary horror might wonder why they should be looking to the past for their scares. Beyond reboots like Whannell’s increasing their immediate relevance, the impact of Universal’s Golden Age on the genre has been profound, and their influence can still be seen in the best horror movies of today. Directors like Guillermo del Toro have made careers out of returning to the gothic atmosphere of these ’30s movies, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and The Lighthouse return to a black-and-white aesthetic, and movies like The Babadook and It Follows show that monsters are starting to take back the ground they lost to slashers. Horror fans of any era would not regret taking a week-long binge of the movies that started it all.
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