‘Renfield’ sets classic vampire story in new, gory light


Dracula (Nicolas Cage) intimidates Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) into staying a servant after a betrayal. (Photo courtesy Universal Studios)

   Who has seen and or heard of some sort of toxic relationship? Most people see them in various media or know someone who was in one. What kind of relationship would Dracula have with his underling? Toxic does not begin to describe it.

   “Renfield” is a comedy, horror, adventure movie directed by Chris McKay. Lead character, R. M. Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) tries to leave his toxic relationship with his narcissistic boss, Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage). Renfield has been working for Dracula for over a century and has been granted some of his supernatural abilities, but he has to rely on eating bugs for that power. After running from vampire hunters, Dracula and his servant have to hide in New Orleans. While there, Renfield finds a twelve-step program for people who struggle with codependency, hoping to take the participants’ abusers to Dracula so he can regain his full power. Dracula is displeased with the people he has brought because he needs the blood of the innocent and the pure. Hesitant, Renfield agrees and goes on the hunt for the Count where he gets mixed up in a scuffle with cops and a crime syndicate family called the Lobos. Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina) is a second-generation police officer trying to take the Lobos family down in order to avenge her father’s death. Renfield falls in love with Quincy because of her willingness to stand up for herself, unlike he can to his boss. Using the teaching he has learned in a self-help book, Renfield turns his back on Dracula. The Lord of Darkness then teams up with the Lobos family to take over the world. Renfield and Quincy must work and take down the Lobos’s drug kingpin and Count Dracula. 

  This movie takes the classic Dracula story and makes it fun with a good message about struggling with codependency. The topic of codependency and toxic relationships is discussed throughout the movie and is woven between gory and grand fight scenes. Chris McKay did not hold back regarding gore, it is a R rated movie after all. The story could be better, with more depth surrounding the film besides the message, but it still works together really well. It is not meant to be something with a profound life-changing story. It is a fun, campy movie.

   The jokes are also nothing special. Some landed better than others, but the writers hit a sweet spot. There are enough to make it feel like a comedy, but not so much that the serious parts are not severe. Being a unique premise makes the source material feel fresh and relevant but remains reminiscent of the 1930s “Dracula.” It is a very entertaining film that is worth watching if the blood and gore are not an issue. In addition, the set design was unique. Each set has a distinct feel from Dracula’s dingy hospital lair, to Renfield’s colorful apartment and to the Lobos’ gold and black stronghold. Each feels one of a kind, and they fit this loony film. 

   A lot of criticism for this movie has been coming out from viewers because of its empty plot. The movie does not sway from the surface-level traits of the characters and the plot. With the movie being so short, they needed help to explore the different arcs and plotlines. They could have devoted more time to flesh out characters and their personalities. Another complaint is that the film does not know what it identifies as. Is it a bloody action film with vampires? Is it a love and healing story? Is it an over-the-top comedy? They are trying to cram too much into this 90-minute movie, and it could throw the viewer off a little. 

   All in all, “Renfield” is not a movie to write home about. It is a simple story with a one-of-a-kind premise that does not try to do anything riveting. It is a straight-to-the-point action comedy that is fun to watch because it does not take itself too seriously. It uses its R-rating to go all out with blood and carnage. It highlights codependency, abusive relationships, and how to be your own person, but does it in a way that does not feel preachy or condescending.