As the title of this movie indicates, Renfield stands front and center in this new comedic action/horror feature. Most iterations of the Renfield character present him as a raving, mentally unstable, devoted servant of Dracula. While he isn’t precisely a babbling lunatic, he has his problems. There usually is a limited amount of depth to this strange and memorable supporting character, created by writer Bram Stoker, and interpreted in mostly the same ways in various interpretations of the Dracula story. Nicholas Hoult as Renfield and Nicolas Cage as Dracula prove to be successful.
As I mentioned above, Nicholas Hoult stars as the titular Renfield. The stressed and beleaguered protagonist has served the powerful and persuasive vampire Count Dracula for over a century. In exchange for his devoted servitude, Dracula has given Renfield the power of immortality (among other incredible powers), which he acquires through the ingestion of insects. By consuming their life force, Renfield has remained young and has intense strength, increased agility, and mad fighting skills. While that might not initially sound so bad, Renfield has had enough of Dracula’s selfishness and total disregard for his happiness. With all of his supernatural strength and gifts, Dracula’s servant cannot find the strength within himself to stand up to his master and leave him for good.
However, Dracula’s impatience and blood lust can only keep him hidden for so long, making Renfield’s tasks all the more difficult. In addition to the vampire’s never-ending thirst for blood, he craves more power and dominion over humanity. He sees a golden opportunity to satiate these fits of hunger when Renfield inadvertently crosses the Lobo crime family most unfavorably. Even though Renfield has mixed feelings about interfering with their crimes, part of him enjoys being a hero and desires to be much more than just a lowly vampire’s servant.
Based on the characters by Bram Stoker, writers Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ridley and director Chris McKay deliver a fun and delightful movie that blends comedy, action, horror, and over-the-top gore in some enjoyable ways. The film does have its limitations. While the amusing and fresh approach to the Renfield character works well, not all humor lands nicely, and some gags get overplayed. Still, I had a good time with this movie. I was hoping for more, but I am still mostly satisfied with what I got.
As I mentioned, the movie goes over the top with the gore. It is a real splatter fest. If that sounds horrible, then this movie is not for you. If one is not a fan of Nicolas Cage and his unique acting style, then for sure, this is not your cup of blood. As for Nick Cage fans, this film is enjoyable. That is not to say that Cage goes insane and overplays his character. The eccentric actor wonderfully channels previous interpretations of the character as an homage to the work of those great actors but also brings enough of his exceptional flavor to add to the comedic element and make the character his own.
However, as great as Cage is, his presence is limited to the point where it only partially overshadows the superb performance by Nicholas Hoult. Hoult and the writers offer a new and exciting take on the character that makes Renfield less repulsive, more likable, and sometimes pathetic. As he is portraying the show’s title character, Hoult rises to the occasion and kills it. The movie also features some great and enjoyable supporting turns by Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
There is so much potential to further expand on this concept of the Dracula universe and the continuing journey of one R.M. Renfield. With its strengths and weaknesses, Renfield is still a delightful movie, and it could be the start of a new and exciting franchise. I know Universal has already attempted to launch a “monster” universe but failed. This movie could do that.