‘Renfield’ review: Nicolas Cage vamps it up as delightfully daft Dracula

The blood-sucking villain is joined by his pissed-off manservant, played by Nicholas Hoult

If you haven’t heard of Renfield, you’ll definitely know his master: Count Dracula, pop culture’s pre-eminent vampire since Bram Stoker invented him over 125 years ago. This wickedly clever film based on an idea by The Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman flips the myth on its head and relocates the action to present-day New Orleans. Nicolas Cage camps it up fabulously as the fanged antagonist: whenever he’s on screen, the scenery is as likely to be chewed as human flesh. But as its title suggests, this gloriously gory romp is told from the perspective of Drac’s long-suffering flunkey, R. M. Renfield (Nicholas Hoult). After decades of bringing the vamp victims to suck the blood from, in exchange for a small portion of Dracula’s power being transferred to him, Hoult’s lackey is about ready to snap.

In Stoker’s book, Renfield is portrayed as deranged and dangerously devoted to Dracula, but this film’s screenwriter Ryan Ridley reimagines him as someone more nuanced and modern. A black-and-white opening montage riffing on the classic 1931 Dracula movie starring Bela Lugosi establishes Renfield’s ill-advised pact with his maniacal master, which he entered into to provide for his family. Then, nearly a century later, Renfield stumbles into a support group for people with toxic bosses and begins to question whether their co-dependency is entirely healthy. Spoiler: it really, really isn’t.

Nicholas Hoult in ‘Renfield’. CREDIT: Universal

The slightly convoluted plot takes a little while to team Renfield with Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), a deeply principled traffic cop who is desperate to take down the local mafiosos who killed her father. Target number one for Rebecca is Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz), a cocky playboy still in thrall to his glamorous but ruthless mobster mum (Shohreh Aghdashloo). When Dracula realises Renfield is pulling away from him – or at least trying to – he turns to the Lobos and their steady supply of well-drilled henchmen for support.


The story probably has a few too many moving parts, but director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) keeps the pace brisk and the tone playful. A montage in which the hitherto bedraggled Renfield rediscovers his self-worth and gives himself a makeover is soundtracked by ‘2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)’, a bouncy bop by today’s queen of self-empowerment, Lizzo. The film also has fun sending up the power dynamics of support groups. Brandon Scott Jones is good value as the slightly passive-aggressive group leader who encourages Renfield to find his inner fire.

But what really makes this film pop are the game performances – Hoult’s wry self-awareness nicely compliments Cage’s literal vamping – and flashy action sequences. McKay has crafted a blood-soaked blast where dismembered human limbs are used as clubs to beat people with and a humble piece of cutlery becomes a sort of Chekhov’s Gun: if you see a fork, chances are it’s going in someone’s jugular. Renfield isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you’ve got a reasonably strong stomach and an appreciation for the tongue-in-cheek, it really is bloody good fun.


  • Director: Chris McKay
  • Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina
  • Release date: April 14

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