Your boss may suck. But they probably don’t suck like Dracula. Meet Renfield, Dracula’s loyal servant.
After centuries of doing Dracula’s bidding, Renfield’s starting to think life might be better without the Prince of Darkness in his life. But reclaiming his power and ending his codependency won’t be easy, since he’ll have to go up against the world’s most iconic vampire to do it.
This new twist on the classic Dracula tale comes from director Chris McKay (LEGO Batman). Ryan Ridley (Ghosted) wrote the screenplay based on an original idea by Robert Kirkman (TWD, Invincible). It stars Nicholas Hoult as Renfield and Nicolas Cage as Dracula.
You can’t go wrong with Nic Cage as Dracula
If you boil Renfield down to its bare essentials, you can summarize the appeal of the movie in just four words: Nic Cage is Dracula. You hear those four words and you’re either in or you’re out – and I was all in.
So, I’m happy to report that Cage’s Dracula is everything you want: ruthless, campy, manipulative, over-the-top, and overall just a joy to watch on screen. Cage is an actor with an incredibly expansive, storied career – and I’d still say playing Dracula in Renfield must be one of his best roles.
Similarly, Nicholas Hoult is well cast as Renfield. He does an admirable job playing both meek and pathetic while under Dracula’s thumb to slowly transforming into someone more independent and assertive as the story progresses. Even though we all love Dracula as a villain, Hoult makes you love Renfield as a hero.
Great action and comedic gore that play into the vampire premise
Beyond the camp, where Renfield really delivers is in its emphasis on supernatural action. The fight choreography looks great, and it’s a lot of fun to see how the movie brings both Dracula and Renfield’s supernatural powers into play during these scenes. And the movie plays up the gore for comedic effect well. Renfield rips a guy’s arms off and uses them to pin someone else to a door. Dracula tears out throats and explodes heads like he’s having the time of his life. It’s unapologetically, enthusiastically bloody and messy, and keeps the vibe of the film both thrilling and funny.
The movie also does well in mixing up Dracula’s fights to incorporate his different powers; he’ll suddenly turn into smoke or a cloud of bats to weasel out of a close encounter or get the upper hand in a showdown. Likewise, Renfield gets to create a lot of impromptu weapons and uses the location around him to fight his foes.
One of the best things about Renfield is that it never forgets it’s a vampire movie. Every fight features supernatural abilities or staging that couldn’t happen in a regular action sequence. And when the action stops, it remembers to include little moments to keep you pulled into the vampire world, from tributes to the classic Universal Monster movies to pieces of vampire lore. (There’s a scene where Dracula can freely enter a home because of an overly-enthusiastic welcome mat out front.) This movie knows what it is and leans into it, and it really pays off.
A cliche cop plot sucks a little life out of Renfield
Where Renfield succeeds in its action, gore, camp, and comedy, it’s quite a bit thinner on the plot. Now, this is exactly the kind of movie where you don’t need an intricate, twisty, high-level story to make audiences happy. I’m here to see Cage ham it up as Dracula and Hoult figure out how to take back his power as Renfield.
That said, the storyline about Rebecca (played by Awkwafina) did bring the movie down a bit for me. It’s the most textbook, cliché cop background story: her dad was A Good Cop Who Died, and now she wants to bring down the people responsible. I wouldn’t have minded as much if this had played more of a background role in the movie. But Renfield dedicates a fair amount of time to this – far too much for a movie that’s only around 90 minutes to begin with. It’s clunky and uninteresting, to the point where it felt like a distraction from everything about the movie I actually wanted to see.
If you love vampire movies, watch Renfield
Though some of the plot nuances detract from Renfield’s potential, it’s undeniably a bloody good time. The movie embraces camp, blood, and supernatural action – like all great vampire stories – and Cage and Hoult really deliver in their respective roles.
Really, it’s as simple as this: do you love vampires? Do you love gore, horror, comedy? Did the phrase Nic Cage as Dracula remind you what movies are for? Well then, you’re going to want to check out Renfield.
Renfield premieres in theaters April 14.