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SYFY WIRE Renfield

'Renfield' writer Ryan Ridley describes Dracula horror-comedy as 'a superhero blockbuster'

Sounds like Mahershala Ali's Blade has some competition...

By Josh Weiss
A trailer still of Nicholas Hoult in Renfield (2023)

Bummed about Mahershala Ali's Blade getting postponed till next year? Universal Pictures is here to fill the void with Renfield, which screenwriter Ryan Ridley (Rick and Morty) recently described as "a superhero blockbuster" not "beholden to any other franchises" during an interview with Total Film (the magazine's latest issue is now on sale).

"This is a much weirder soufflé than anyone's expecting," he explained of the genre-melding feature directed by The Tomorrow War's Chris McKay. "It's an action horror and it's a workplace comedy. It's a Dracula movie about Renfield."

"We've got action and comedy and horror and romance, but it's all seen through an awkward, weird lens," McKay added. "I looked at it a bit like the weird world-building in John Wick. It's all too easy to just run straight back to those classics that I grew up with, but the challenge is to make it a little bit different."

RELATED: 'Renfield': Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult vampire comedy scores R-rating

Based on an original pitch from Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead and Invincible), the movie stars X-Men vet Nicholas Hoult as Dracula's disillusioned assistant, who decides he's had enough after a century of servitude. The notion of shifting the spotlight from the bloodsucking Count (played here by Nicolas Cage) over to his lesser-known stooge is what excited Ridley most about the project.

"If you asked anyone off the street about Renfield, they might be vaguely aware that he's the guy who works for Dracula and eats bugs, but beyond that, there really isn't much to go on," Ridley continued.

"There are loads of people who can do weird, and Renfield needed somebody who wouldn't care about smearing bugs and blood all over their face, but it also needed somebody who could be truly vulnerable," McKay said of casting the titular role. "And I also needed someone who was going to be able to commit to the stunts ... Honestly, I don't even know if I could have made this movie without Nicholas Hoult."

In the original Bram Stoker novel, Renfield dines on insects and arachnids as he believes wholeheartedly that they will extend his own life. The movie, on the other hand, builds upon the lore of the character's creepy-crawly diet: whenever Renfield munches on a bug, he gains extraordinary supernatural powers. While Hoult was given a number of tasty arthropods made out of caramel, the actor also agreed to pop a few real ones into his mouth (these insects were already dead and pre-packaged, of course).

"I think they just ordered them from Amazon or wherever," he said. "The crickets came in different flavors. Some of them were barbecue, some were salt and vinegar. Honestly, once you get over the idea of what it is you're eating, they weren't that bad. And I ate a lot. There was only one that I didn't like — it was a pot bug, and that one did taste... buggy."

Renfield officially rises from the coffin Friday, April 14.

Need to satisfy your vampire craving right now? Check out SYFY's Reginald the Vampire, which is set to return later this year for a second season. Or check out Season 1 of Vampire Academy, now streaming on Peacock!