Renfield is a horror comedy you can sink your teeth into.
After the portentous self-importance of the DARK UNIVERSE announcement and the subsequent Cruise-led catastrophic misfire of THE MUMMY, how was Universal to take advantage of its storied back catalogue of horror icons? I doubt anyone could have guessed that the answer would have been RENFIELD, a give-no-fucks splatter fest comedy horror which honours Bela Lugosi’s 1931 original while giving the venerable vampire story a transfusion of fresh energy and blood.
Ninety years on from a near-destruction experience, Dracula (Nicholas Cage) and his faithful servant Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) have moved to present-day New Orleans where the weakened vampire slowly regenerates from the fifth-degree burns that only vampires can suffer. Meanwhile, Renfield has grown resentful of his eternal indentured servitude and, with the help of a 12-step self-help group for people in codependent relationships run by Mark (Brandon Scott Jones) and is starting to dream of a life away from his master. But when an attempt to help one of his fellow group members ends up involving him with a feud between local gangster Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz) and Rebecca (Akwafina), the last honest cop in the city, the stage is set for a bloodbath of truly Transylvanian proportions.
Based on a pitch from Robert Kirkman, of THE WALKING DEAD fame, RENFIELD takes the characters and set-up from Tod Browning’s 1931 and injects the legend with the same pop-culture irreverence of SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD and the energetically gleeful blood-splattered violence of THE EVIL DEAD.
Nicholas Cage is, predictably, awesome as Dracula, chewing scenery and cast members with equal relish but in centring the character of Renfield, the film gives Nicholas Cage the opportunity to get his teeth into something a little more substantial than wanton bloodlust. Renfield’s quest for self-actualisation and burgeoning rediscovery of his own sense of self-worth pre-empts Ryan Gosling’s similarly colourful yet decidedly less haemorrhagic “Am I Kenough?” musings and Nicholas Hoult makes for the perfect anti-hero, equally comfortable with exploring his emotions as he is pummelling bad guys with cartoony ultra-gore. Akwafina’s good value too, providing worthy foil for Hoult and a great WTF proxy for the audience too as the chaos escalates.
Pulpy, preposterous and perfectly balanced between homage and hilarity, I would love to see Universal expand from this base to explore their pantheon of monsters. Renfield Vs The Wolfman anyone?