The Movie Guru: ‘Renfield’ offers gory, fun twist on Dracula |

The Movie Guru: ‘Renfield’ offers gory, fun twist on Dracula

'Renfield' is now playing in theaters.
Universal/Courtesy photo

By Jenniffer Wardell

“Renfield” is a bloody good time.

The dark action comedy, opening this weekend, puts a violent, entertaining new spin on the story of Dracula. It manages the trick by shifting the focus to the famous vampire’s long-suffering servant, giving him a taste of therapy to go along with the bug-eating powers. There’s an odd sweetness and genuine humor along with the gory action scenes, all of it topped off by a fantastic performance from Nicholas Cage as Dracula. It’s not for everyone, but those who are willing to step into the dark will definitely enjoy the experience.

The movie is narrated by Renfield, played by Nicholas Hoult as the ultimate long-suffering personal assistant. Instead of being sent for lattes, though, he’s sent to collect victims for his dark master. When he stumbles across a self-help group and a cop who refuses to back down, however, he starts a chain reaction that will either destroy the world or save it.

It’s hard to pin down the precise genre of the movie, which is part of what keeps the movie interesting. It’s got a little bit of everything, a mix that keeps things interesting no matter what’s happening onscreen. There is quite a bit of gore, and while action and horror movie fans probably won’t have a problem, it’s dramatic enough to need a warning.

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Hoult has already had a long career finding the sweet, charming aspects of monstrous characters, and he does the same thing here. His Renfield is a nice boy who is very good at murder, and you both want him to win and find yourself just a little bit unsettled. The sweet smile he gives Awkwafina as he helps her down the huge pile of corpses he just made is exactly the kind of dichotomy that helps make the movie really sing.

This is especially true when it’s set against Cage’s monstrous, magnetic Dracula. The actor lets you see glimpses of the iconic Draculas that came before, from Bela Lugosi to Bram Stoker’s original creation, but still makes the character his own. He’s the ultimate narcissist, a gleeful, murderous child who both abuses Renfield and yet still seems genuinely hurt when he turns away from his “gift.” No matter how awful he is, it’s hard to look away whenever he’s onscreen.

It’s not a perfect movie, of course. Awkwafina isn’t bad as the one good cop in the city, but she’s stiff and a little bland in a way the actress should never be. It also wouldn’t have been bad if the runtime was a little longer, giving some of the plot beats a little more room to breathe.

Still, there’s a lot to love about “Renfield.” You won’t regret letting it sink its fangs into you. 

Grade: Three stars

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at

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