Renfield a Horror-Comedy That Should Eventually Hit Cult Classic Status

Once upon a time, Renfield was intended to be one of several movies comprising a shared Universal Monsters universe. That idea got pushed back following the lukewarm reception to Dracula Untold. And then the Tom Cruise vehicle, The Mummy put a shared monster-verse on ice. After years of ideas and development hell, Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead fame pitched a comedic take on the Dracula legend focusing on his bug-eating servant. Once Universal Studios announced that Nicolas Cage would be playing the Count, Renfield was off and running. Unfortunately, a bloated budget, middling reviews, and a horror-heavy release schedule spelled box office doom.


For decades, R.M. Renfield has served Count Dracula and endured poor treatment with little gratitude. When the put-upon Renfield stumbles across a self-help group for people in unhealthy, co-dependent relationships he suddenly discovers his own self-worth. Soon Renfield is aspiring to be an independent and better version of himself that leaves his master, Dracula, behind. But when Renfield crosses paths with a local crime organization, he soon finds himself directly at odds with his former employer.

Renfield Suffers a Bit From Odd Pacing, But Delivers a Wild Mix of Action, Gore, and Comedy

Credits goes to writers Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ridley alongside director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) who boldly mix horror, comedy, and action. None of those genres are easy to combine into an overall effective movie. Throw in some well-appreciated nostalgia for the original Dracula and Renfield combines a lot of different elements into what’s mostly a wild and fun ride. Most of the comedy hits the mark. From the premise of Dracula gaslighting Renfield to some of Nicholas Hoult’s more awkward mannerisms, the humor is snarky and delivers a handful of laughs. But it’s the action set-pieces here that steal the show. Anyone who’s faint of heart won’t appreciate Renfield. On the other hand, gorehounds with a dark sense of humor will revel in blood-splattering – McKay crafts a handful of inventive, off-the-wall moments.

Throw in some well-appreciated nostalgia for the original Dracula and Renfield combines a lot of different elements into what’s mostly a wild and fun ride.

Where Renfield runs into some problems isn’t so much pacing — McKay never lets the action drag into boredom. Rather it sometimes feels like particular scenes run a bit long, while others feel abbreviated. As much as the action scenes are in Renfield, they begin to feel a bit repetitive by the final act. Moreover, the finale feels rushed and somewhat anti-climatic. In addition, there’s a crime syndicate subplot – which thankfully brings Awkwafina into the movie – that feels a bit tacked on. Though it grants McKay some more action-oriented moments, it also takes away from the best parts of the horror-comedy – the dynamics between servant and master.

Renfield Finds Nicolas Cage in ‘Full Cage’ Mode as Count Dracula

Let’s face it, Nicolas Cage is the immediate drawing attraction to Renfield. Over the years, the veteran actor has earned a reputation for his wild, unhinged performances in movies that range from eclectic to downright bad. But horror fans can’t help but love the unpredictable thespian who’s turned up in quite a few genre cult classics including Color Out of Space, Willy’s Wonderland, Prisoners of the Ghostland, Mandy, and, yes, The Wicker Man. Not surprisingly, Cage is an absolute blast playing the infamous Count Dracula. You might even say that he ‘chews’ the scenery here. Simply put, Cage delivers on exactly what you would want for this take on the iconic character.

Not surprisingly, Cage is an absolute blast playing the infamous Count Dracula.

While Cage is a lot of fun in the role, it would be unfair to forget the movie’s title character and star – Nicholas Hoult (The Menu). For a young performer, Hoult has already amassed an impressive list of diverse acting credits. And he’s proven to be pretty good at awkward humor. In Renfield, Hoult is plenty awkward but still endearing. He’s an actor who blends into whatever the role demands of him and he aptly meets the comedic and action requirements here. Even if the criminal underworld subplot somewhat detracts from the movie, Awkwafina is a welcome addition to the horror comedy. To date, she’s proven to be a fun, scene-stealer is just about everything in which she appears.

Renfield Likely Destined For Cult Status Somewhere Down the Road

Poor Nicolas Cage. One has to wonder what might have been for Renfield, which seemed like a slam dunk when its first trailer released. An unnecessarily large budget and tough release schedule sealed its fate before the first weekend was over. Tepid reviews didn’t guarantee it much in the legs either. And yes, McKay lingers too long some scene while rushing over a somewhat awkward climax. Nonetheless, Renfield is an absolute blast mixing snarky humor, winning performances from all three leads, and a whole lot of blood and guts. Someday audiences will re-discover this one all but guaranteeing it cult stats.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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