Review: “Renfield” navigates toxic relationships through the life of Dracula’s familiar


Nicole Hasek

Renfield was released

Robert Montague Renfield was first introduced as Dracula’s hopelessly devoted familiar, a supernatural being that assists vampires, in the original 1897 novel “Dracula.” Since then, Dracula has been portrayed in over 200 films, but his right-hand man is often left out.

This is where “Renfield” is creative, twisting Dracula’s tale and exploring an unexpected and comedic perspective. After spending 90 years enslaved under Dracula’s control, Renfield — portrayed by Nicholas Hoult — starts attending a support group for victims trapped in toxic relationships.

Originally, his strategy was to find the abusive partners and bring them back to his master to “get rid of their monsters by giving mine what he needs,” as Renfield puts it. Eventually, he starts comparing his relationship to those from the support group and decides he needs to break up with Dracula.

The film seemed to pay homage to early 2000’s rom-coms with a montage of Renfield getting a new wardrobe, redecorating his house and hanging up inspirational posters after his break-up, all while Lizzo is playing.

Just like the original novel, Dracula seeks revenge when Renfield betrays him. With this comes many fight scenes, enhanced by Renfield’s ability to gain supernatural powers after eating bugs. Impressive tactical fighting, quick movements, creative but gruesome fights and a surprisingly effective slow-mo scene guarantees interest during the most intense scenes.

When Awkwafina and Ben Schwartz came on screen as a police officer and drug dealer, respectively, I was expecting these characters to be comedic relief with little storyline. In reality, their characters were fully developed with their own complex lives. There were a few times—before each character was clearly connected—where I felt like I was watching two different movies because of how in-depth the side characters were explored.

Watching Nicolas Cage play Dracula, and I stopped overanalyzing and let the ridiculous, but amusing, script play itself out. In the end, each character came together to meet the main goal: defeating Dracula.

Cage is not quite the box office draw he used to be, but he gave a surprisingly entertaining performance as Dracula that encapsulated the odd-but-likable personality Cage is known for.

“Renfield” is equally entertaining and gruesome. A massacre that included an entire body exploding was shown within the first ten minutes of the film, and Dracula’s appearance after healing from a near-death experience is truly grotesque.

This horror-comedy is nowhere near movie of the year, but it is a fun watch with well-written jokes.

Rating: 6.5/10