Comedy Fantasy

Review: ‘Renfield’ Reimagines Bram Stoker’s Iconic Vampire as a Soul-Sucking Boss from Hell

April 14, 2023Ben MK

Since its publication 126 years ago, Bram Stoker's Dracula has come to be widely regarded as one of the most iconic pieces of literature ever written. So, of course, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood took the book's monstrous central figure, the vampire known as Count Dracula, and turned him into an equally memorable screen icon. Whether it's Bela Lugosi's 1931 portrayal of the infamous Transylvanian, Christopher Lee's '70s-era Hammer Horror iteration, or Gary Oldman's sympathetic yet demonic rendition in Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 adaptation, moviegoers can’t seem to get enough of the Prince of Darkness and his evil exploits. Leave it to Nicolas Cage, though, to reinvent Dracula as something audiences have never seen been before — a narcissistic boss.

Set in modern-day New Orleans, Renfield follows Dracula's (Cage) faithful servant, Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), a former real estate agent who left behind his wife and young daughter to become the Nosferatu's familiar. For the better part of the last century, Renfield has devoted himself solely to his boss, eating bugs to imbue himself with a small amount of Dracula's supernatural powers and using those abilities to capture and kill unsuspecting victims for him to feast on. What was once oddly fulfilling, however, has, over the years, become gruelling and intolerable. And so, after helping to once again save Dracula from vampire hunters and relocating him to the Big Easy to regain his strength, Renfield now finds himself attending a support group for people stuck in toxic relationships, where he's encouraged to finally muster up the courage to take back his life.

Unfortunately for Renfield, his newfound sense of freedom proves to be short-lived. And when Dracula learns of his servant's plans to abandon him, he decides to retaliate, striking up an alliance with a member of a notorious local crime family named Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz) in exchange for the manpower and money to help him achieve his goals of world domination. What neither Dracula nor the Lobos could have expected, however, is for Renfield to team up with feisty police officer Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina). A second generation law enforcement official with an FBI agent sister Kate (Camille Chen) whose father was killed in the line of duty, Rebecca is determined to bring the Lobos to justice no matter what the cost. In order to do so, though, she and Renfield will have to find a way to do what no vampire hunter in history has been able to do — vanquish the Lord of Death himself.

What follows is a horror comedy that's as gory as it is hilarious, with director Chris McKay and screenwriter Ryan Ridley taking advantage of every opportunity to let Cage chew the scenery as the ultimate a-hole boss who also happens to be the OG bloodsucker, while Hoult uses his character's superior strength and heightened agility to make short work of one opponent after another during the movie's many energetic fight scenes. From dismemberments and decapitations to bodies exploding and bodily fluids being projectile vomited out of a variety of orifices, there's no shortage of moments to make gorehounds squeal with delight. If you're in search of a more traditional, Dracula-centric storyline, however, you might want to look elsewhere, because Renfield is anything but.

Of course, that's not to say Cage's performance doesn't live up to the hype. On the contrary, the 59-year-old's take on Dracula arguably ranks as one of the most devilishly inspired and wickedly entertaining roles of his career. What truly sets Renfield apart, though, is what the film has to say about co-dependency and toxic relationships. And while that may not be typical subject matter for the genre, it's precisely the type of new thematic blood needed to reinvigorate and retell an age-old tale from a refreshingly different and relatable perspective.

Renfield releases April 14th, 2023 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for bloody violence, some gore, language throughout and some drug use. Its runtime is 1 hr. 33 min.

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