'Renfield' Review

Credit: Elizabeth Lathan/ Credit: Elizabeth Lathan/

“The blood is the life.”

This is the mantra of Dracula’s loyal assistant, Renfield, a man gone mad under the control of the powerful vampire. Portrayed by Dwight Frye in the 1931 classic "Dracula," the version of Renfield we see in the movie of the titular character (portrayed by Nicholas Hoult) tries to be a “direct sequel” of the 1931 film, or at least that’s what they say. It’s more of a comedy-horror alternate universe, but I digress.

Without giving too much away, the plot can be summed up as this: a pathetic Tumblr man from the Victorian era who does Dracula’s dirty work (and laundry) attends group therapy sessions to give him hope that one day he’ll be free from Dracula’s abuse, only to find himself tangled between his job, his far-fetched dream of independence, and a girl he likes for some reason. There’s also a mob family on his tail, thanks to the recent uptick in violent deaths wherever he goes getting him in trouble with police.

A lot of times, when people think of the character Renfield, they think of a mentally unstable man who eats bugs to gain their life force, or an Igor-type character who practically worships the ground Dracula walks upon. This new movie actually strays from this portrayal. In it, R.M. (Robert Montague) Renfield willingly gives himself up to become Dracula’s familiar, which was definitely an interesting choice. Without going too deep into the nuances of the character and his origin story from Bram Stoker’s novel, Renfield’s depiction is a very divided subject in any adaptation. This one attempts to humanize him more than other film adaptations, and it does a decent job.

However, if you’re just coming into this movie for a wild ride, it’ll be right up your alley. This movie was just… unbridled bloodshed-y fun. In this film, the bugs Renfield eats give him powers, such as enhanced strength, so you’ll see a lot of ways a person with vampire-enhanced superpowers could mess someone up. The gore is not as bad as other films I’ve heard of, like "Saw" or films of the like, but you will see some limbs flying here and there (it’s definitely gory, but heavier on the blood rather than guts). It’s also played comically, so the amount of gore used paired with the action-packed/comedic tone of the movie didn’t make me feel as squeamish as I thought I would be going in. Overall, if you can’t really stomach gore, you might want to reconsider giving this movie a go.

Speaking of a wild ride, this IS a Nicolas Cage movie we’re talking about: and it’s a role he’s apparently been wanting to play for a while now. His Dracula is hilarious, but also incredibly well-acted overall. He does a great job of injecting comedy into the character of Dracula, but still making him absolutely terrifying.

The cinematography was fun, especially the parts in the beginning (which everyone was buzzing about) where snippets from scenes of the 1931 "Dracula" film were reenacted by Cage and Hoult (Cage actually makes for a pretty good Bela Lugosi look-alike in those scenes). There were more action-y bits than I thought would be in the movie, and while I found it a bit redundant and goofy at times, it was admittedly a lot of fun to watch. Both Nicholases do an incredible job, and I mean come on—who wouldn’t want to see Nic Cage as Dracula?

Quick side note: I saw this movie at the Harris theater as part of their month-long Dracula movie event — because I went to see that movie and another Dracula-adjacent film (in my case, I decided to watch the 1979 version of "Dracula"), I got this cool wooden coffin thing that has all the movies they were showing etched into it!

That’s all I'm gonna say about this movie: you’ll have to find out the rest yourself! I think if you like vampires, horror, comedies, or movies with Nicholas Cage, then you’ll find something to love about this film. I certainly did.