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Nicolas Cage, Hoult give new, comedic take on classic Hollywood horror duo in ‘Renfield’

Nicolas Cage, Hoult give new, comedic take on classic Hollywood horror duo in ‘Renfield’

Nicolas Cage, Hoult give new, comedic take on classic Hollywood horror duo in ‘Renfield’
April 21
14:00 2023

Much to the fear of modern audiences, Universal Studios has released yet another version of the Prince of Darkness himself — Dracula. However, viewers can breathe a sigh of relief, as “Renfield”‘s new Dracula is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. 

It’s impossible to discuss this film without addressing its heavy-hitting cast and crew. The film’s main cast alone, Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult and Awkwafina, is enough to make any film buff drool. 

But the talent doesn’t stop on-screen. With crew including “Walking Dead” writer Robert Kirkman and “Lego Batman” director Chris McKay, “Renfield” seemed set to be one of this year’s best films. It still might be — just not in the fashion that viewers may have expected.

While most may think “Renfield” is based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, it is actually based by Tod Browning’s 1931 film adaptation. 

The movie is a comedic sequel that’s set to take place a couple of decades after Browning’s version. McKay confirmed that “Renfield” is a direct sequel to the 1931 version, unlike “Dracula’s Daughter” and “Son of Dracula.” This adaptation decides to take the story in a new direction, with Renfield being the main character rather than just Dracula’s servant.

“Renfield” holds plenty of Easter eggs that nod to Browning’s Dracula. The black-and-white flashbacks of Renfield and Dracula meeting are an easily spotted nod to Browning’s version. But it’s hard to take seriously with Renfield narrating the memory as if it were a meet-cute, rather than a man selling his soul into servitude. 

The next nod to the original Dracula is Renfield’s powers. In Stoker’s novel – the basis of Browning’s movie – Renfield ate bugs with the belief it’d increase his life force. In McKay’s version, eating bugs grants Renfield a portion of Dracula’s powers. 

The biggest nod comes from the Dracula character himself. Cage does a fantastic job of honoring Bela Lugosi’s portrayal, despite the un-seriousness of the film. 

Outside of that, McKay’s version has nothing in common with its predecessor. In this version, Renfield doesn’t want anything to do with Dracula or to be his servant at all. The movie follows Renfield as he finds the courage to leave his narcissistic boss and become his own man. 

However, Dracula refuses to let him go easily. Instead, he retaliates by attempting to kill everyone Renfield cares about and planning to dominate the human race.

Any hope of “Renfield” being a serious take on Stoker’s “Dracula” is dashed during the opening scenes. The movie starts with Renfield in a support group for people in toxic relationships. He likens his relationship with Dracula to those of his fellow group members during his narration (and much of the film’s dialogue). 

Outside of the amusing, tongue-in-cheek parallels, the plot is painfully flat. Moviegoers could save time and money by reading a Google summary and would receive nearly the same amount of thoughtful storytelling. The lack of plot causes the character development to suffer greatly despite the outstanding actors.

However, the larger-than-life personalities of the characters almost make up for the lack of serious development. It’s hard not to be entertained when Cage gives us the Dracula of a lifetime, while the other main antagonist looks like a poor imitation of Jared Leto’s Joker. 

It isn’t a complete loss, though. What the film lacks in dialogue, it more than makes up for in action scenes. As cheesy as they may be, each fight sequence is packed with plenty of gore. 

Although the movie may be considered a critical flop with only a 59 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a $7.7 million box office debut, it’s successful in what it set out to do: entertain.

“Renfield” is hilariously camp, despite being rather slow at times. If you’re looking for a cinematic masterpiece to take a deep dive into dissecting, this is not the film for you.

However, if you’d like a film to go see with friends and just have a good time, “Renfield” is perfect. 

Xander’s rating: 4.5/5

Featured Illustration by Isabella Isquierdo

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Xander Weems

Xander Weems

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