Renfield Director Knows Why Universal’s Dark Universe Failed

Renfield director Chris McKay thinks the Dark Universe failed as it was too complex with too many moving parts.

By Chad Langen | Updated


Universal’s Dark Universe was intended to be a cinematic universe that would showcase the studio’s classic monsters, including Dracula, the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster. Unfortunately, the first film in the planned series, The Mummy starring Tom Cruise, failed both critically and commercially, resulting in the indefinite postponement of the movie universe. During a recent interview with Slash Film to promote his upcoming film Renfield, director Chris McKay shared his thoughts on why he believes the Dark Universe concept failed: the studio tried to do too much, too fast.

Although the 49-year-old filmmaker expressed his admiration for the characters that were supposed to appear in the Dark Universe, he was glad to discover that Renfield would be a standalone movie. He said, “No one ever talked about doing anything other that.” He was hired to make a standalone movie and that’s exactly what he did.

McKay went on to suggest that the Dark Universe idea faltered due to its complex nature with too many elements to manage effectively. He also explained the significance of prioritizing the creation of a high-quality film rather than thinking about sequels and large franchises. With Renfield, the director “wanted to tell a self-containing thing.”

Renfield arrives in theaters on April 14 and features an impressive cast that includes Nicholas Hoult, Mackenzie Davis, Nicolas Cage, and Ben Schwartz. The film follows the story of Dracula’s loyal henchman, R.M. Renfield, and his journey to become a vampire. The screenplay was penned by Ryan Ridley and Robert Kirkman.

Although Renfield is not officially a part of the Dark Universe, it could potentially serve as a launching pad for the franchise. With the right amount of success, Renfield could pave the way for a new era of Dark Universe films. After all, Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise is nearing an end, and the studio will have a large gap to fill.

Russel Crowe in The Mummy

Universal Pictures achieved remarkable success with the 2020 reimagining of the classic monster film, The Invisible Man. Like Renfield, the movie is a standalone feature, having no ties to the Dark Universe. The film is a modern retelling of the H.G. Wells novel of the same name, which was first adapted for the big screen in 1933.

Directed by Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man stars Elizabeth Moss as a woman who believes her abusive ex-boyfriend has found a way to make himself invisible and is terrorizing her. The film was critically acclaimed for its suspenseful storytelling, strong performances, and clever update to the original story. In addition to Moss, the horror film stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, and Michael Dorman.

It was recently announced that Scream 6 directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet have been tapped to direct an Untitled Universal Monster Movie, with their Radio Silence partner Chad Villella. Although the screenplay has reportedly already been written, there’s no word on which monster the upcoming project will be centered around. It’s probably safe to say, however, that film will not be connected to the Dark Universe series.

The success of The Invisible Man remake and the anticipated success of Renfield could potentially revive the Dark Universe franchise. In addition to Olpin and Gillet’s upcoming monster flick, these two standalone movies could serve as a launching pad for a new series of interconnected monster films. We wouldn’t be surprised if Universal Studios decided to capitalize on the renewed interest in its classic monsters and attempt to launch another cinematic universe.