Renfield is a 2023 American comedy horror film directed and produced by Chris McKay, and written by Ryan Ridley from a story by Robert Kirkman, who also served as producer. Inspired by characters from the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, the film stars Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Nicolas Cage.
The film was announced in 2014, focusing a story of the character Renfield in the classic monster universe, but the film entered development hell after the commercial failure of The Mummy (2017). Kirkman later pitched a new version of the film to the studio, leaning more into the comedic aspects of the story, and the production rights were acquired by Skybound Entertainment. Dexter Fletcher was originally announced as director in 2019, but McKay eventually replaced him, working off the Ridley’s script and Kirkman’s original pitch. Much of the cast joined between August 2021 to January 2022, and filming took place from in February to August 2022, on a production budget of $65 million.
Renfield had its world premiere at the Overlook Film Festival on March 30, 2023, and was released in the United States on April 14, 2023, by Universal Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the comedic tone and performances but criticized the screenplay and story. It was a box office bomb, grossing $22 million worldwide out of a $65 million budget.
In July 2014, Universal Pictures announced classic horror film properties, including the character of Count Dracula, as part of a unified shared universe with Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan attached to oversee its development. After the negative reception of Dracula Untold (2014), its connections to a unified series were downplayed, and The Mummy (2017) was re-positioned as the first film in the series. The Mummy, a critical and commercial failure, resulted in Universal’s decision to shift its focus to individual storytelling and move away from the shared universe concept.
Renfield is based on an original pitch by Robert Kirkman and uses a screenplay by Ryan Ridley. In November 2019, Dexter Fletcher was hired to direct the film for Universal and Skybound Entertainment. The film was described as a comedic approach to the story of Count Dracula, in the vein of Taika Waititi’s vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014), that focuses on the character of Renfield. In 2020, Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man became a commercial and critical success for Universal and served as a relaunch to its monster universe. In April 2021, Chris McKay entered negotiations to direct after Fletcher left to work on a reboot of The Saint for Paramount Pictures. McKay was hired because he reportedly gave a successful pitch combining the story’s mix of humor and action, “something the studio was looking to have more of”. In March 2023, McKay described the film as a “quasi-sequel” to Universal’s 1931 English-language film Dracula, depicting the same characters of Dracula and Renfield ninety years on, with the film’s black-and-white opening scene depicting the beginning of Dracula (1931) with Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult respectively inserted in place of Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye as Count Dracula and Renfield.
- Nicolas Cage as Dracula, a legendary Transylvanian vampire and Renfield’s ill-tempered and narcissistic boss.
- Nicholas Hoult as Renfield, the long-suffering servant of Dracula.
- Awkwafina as Rebecca Quincy, an aggressive traffic cop working for the New Orleans Police Department and Renfield’s love interest.
- Ben Schwartz as Tedward “Teddy” Lobo, a mob enforcer and Bellafrancesca’s son
- Adrian Martinez as Chris, a traffic cop and Rebecca’s co-worker.
- Shohreh Aghdashloo as Bellafrancesca Lobo, a matriarch mob boss and Teddy’s mother.
- Brandon Scott Jones as Mark, a support group leader
- Jenna Kanell as Carol, a support group member
- Bess Rous as Caitlyn, a support group member
- Camille Chen as Kate Quincy, an FBI agent and Rebecca’s sister.
- James Moses Black as Captain Browning
- Caroline Williams as Vanessa
- William Ragsdale as Older Priest
- Miles Doleac as Vampire Hunter
April 14, 2023
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