Monster mania is going ahead full throttle. Deadline is reporting that Chris McKay has been tapped to direct and produce the next film for Universal Pictures’ next monster feature called Renfield, based on a story outline from Robert Kirkman and screenplay from Ryan Ridley. The film will focus on the titular Dracula henchman but in an original story not set in the same world.
In Bram Stoker’s novel, R.M. Renfield becomes a henchman of Count Dracula after visiting his home in Transylvania in the late 19th century. Obsessed with consuming life, he becomes an inmate in an insane asylum and eats whatever he can get his hands on — mostly bugs and small animals. There are no current plot details for the adaptation of his story, but according to Deadline, it’s believed to take place in the present day. Renfield is very clearly a supporting character in Dracula’s story, but his on-screen portrayals have always been delightfully unhinged and thoroughly enjoyable. This will necessitate a heck of a good casting decision by Universal, as well as an extremely well-written script from Ridley that plays up the comedy elements.
After the first entry into Universal’s Dark Universe was the lackluster Tom Cruise venture The Mummy in 2017, the studio decided to move forward with future films that were not interconnected and focused on filmmaker-driven projects. This seemed to be the right move for them to make, as 2019’s release of Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man with Elisabeth Moss performed wonderfully with audiences and critics.
In addition to Renfield, Universal currently has a slew of monster movies in the works. This includes bringing back Whannell to direct Ryan Gosling in an adaptation of The Wolfman, a Van Helsing feature with producer James Wan and a new Dracula movie from feature Oscar-winner Chloe Zhao. Staying true to its word, it’s clear that Universal is indeed prioritizing genius creatives behind their monster movies, rather than trying to compete with Disney and WarnerMedia for interconnected IP.
McKay is replacing Dexter Fletcher as director, which makes more sense given McKay’s history of genre movies like The Lego Batman Movie. McKay is already tied to quite a few important upcoming projects, including the military science fiction flick The Tomorrow War with Chris Pratt and DC’s Nightwing, the grownup alter ego of Dick Grayson aka Robin.
Renfield is still currently in development, but The Invisible Man is currently available to stream on HBO Max.