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Renfield ★★★



Director: Chris McKay

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina

Release Date: 14th April 2023

Following the success of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s 2014 cult hit What We Do in the Shadows, viewers really are sinking their teeth into supernatural comedies, with the sub-genre increasingly gaining popularity. Universal’s latest take on their classic monster movies follows in a similar vein, adding a modern twist to the iconic 1931 pre-Code supernatural horror film. After the success of Leigh Whannell’s timely reimagining of The Invisible Man, Universal is certainly stepping in the right direction following its disastrous Dark Universe launch. However, can Renfield continue the trend?

Directed by Chris McKay, Renfield centres on the long-suffering servant (Nicholas Hoult) as he begins to wonder whether there’s a life out there for him free of the grip of his narcissistic boss, Dracula (Nicolas Cage). After centuries of servitude and countless missions saving and restoring his master to full health, Renfield finds himself having an existential crisis and joins a self-help group for those in toxic relationships. Can he summon up the courage to end his codependency with The Prince of Darkness and, in turn, save the world?

Based on an original idea by Invincible’s Robert Kirkman, Renfield features a fun and fresh premise with a clever spin on the Dracula myth. The film certainly starts off strong, with an amusing flashback montage featuring Hoult and Cage edited into footage from the 1931 Dracula flick, positioning their dynamic throughout the ages. Hoult is certainly affable as Renfield, and the contemporary ‘worst boss ever’ spin makes for an amusing gag, particularly throughout the brilliant support group scenes.

The screenplay from Rick & Morty’s Ryan Ridley is often delightfully silly, offering plenty of laughs throughout the situational comedy and ultraviolent action sequences. However, this fresh premise and eccentric central dynamic is hampered somewhat by a bizarre romantic subplot (minus the chemistry), which sees Renfield battling a New Orleans crime family alongside Awkwafina’s lone cop, which certainly distracts from the more engaging thread.

The entertaining dynamic between Hoult and Cage really is the selling point here, particularly Cage’s hammy B-movie take on Dracula, as he gleefully channels the spirit of Bela Lugosi throughout his little time on screen. However, McKay weirdly splits the pairing up for as long as possible, opting to unnecessarily spend time exploring the animosity between Awkwafina’s beat cop and Ben Schwartz’s annoying successor to the crime boss throne.

The wonderful black and white opening really is a fantastic homage to one of film’s most iconic villains, along with the brilliantly detailed costumes (how great is that ruby-red suit?!) and terrifying shark-esque teeth. The blood-soaked action sequences are also rather amusing, especially when Renfield uses detached arms as weapons and utilises decorative serving platters, along with a surprising Mortal Kombat homage. And yet, there’s a definite whiff of superhero around the surprisingly frequent fight sequences, which the film definitely doesn’t shake off.


A fun but flawed horror comedy with a hilariously entertaining turn from Nic Cage, who was seemingly born to bring his dynamism to the Prince of Darkness. It’s just a shame there isn’t more of the central pairing throughout.

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