Behind many of the horror genre’s most iconic figures is a supporting character who does not always get the attention they deserve, such as Dracula’s servant, R.M. Renfield – whom Dwight Frye played opposite Bela Lugosi in the eponymous 1931 movie – and who actually does originate from Bram Stoker’s seminal classic of vampire lore. Said character is receiving an honor that very few sidekicks in horror fiction do by being the star of one of the most exciting 2023 horror movies, which is aptly titled, RENFIELD.
From THE TOMORROW WAR director Chris McKay and with a script from “Rick and Morty” writer Ryan Ridley (and based on an idea from “The Walking Dead” comic creator Robert Kirkman), the movie – which is coming to AMC Theatres on Friday, April 14th – stars Nicholas Hoult in the title role. It follows the immortal servant’s attempt to pursue a normal life free from the Prince of Darkness (Academy Award® winner Nicolas Cage) – until he learns that the consequences of severing ties with Count Dracula are extremely dire, and not just for him personally. From this, it is easy to understand why AMC has included RENFIELD in its “Thrills and Chills” program, so just wait until you hear what laughs are also in store in our preview of what to expect from the horror-comedy.
A Funny Take On Vampire Lore
By modern-day standards, Dracula’s relationship with Renfield is one that very accurately could be described as one-sided and, especially, abusive, given all of the thankless – and often murderous – dirty work that the vampire forces onto his servant. Nicholas Hoult – who previously demonstrated his knack for horror-comedy roles in 2013’s WARM BODIES and THE MENU from 2022 – portrays the character as a man who becomes fed up with his master after attending support groups for abuse victims and realizing he is not alone. It is a clever way of expanding on one of the horror genre’s most famous stories by making it relatable and comical.
However, despite unquestionably being a comedy, one thing that RENFIELD certainly is not is a spoof. The film draws comparisons to McKay’s feature-length directorial debut, 2017’s THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, which is not a parody of the pop culture icon at its center, but acts as a faithful extension of his story, while also managing to be a cleverly funny reinterpretation of his world. As a new branch from the legacy of Dracula, this film is one that Bram Stoker might have been very proud of… as long as he had a good sense of humor.
Horror Fused With A Crime Thriller
Out of the many fun surprises that unfold in RENFIELD, one of the most amusing – without giving too much away – is when the film curdles into a unique blend of a horror-comedy and cop drama. A subplot involves a police officer named Rebecca Quincy (the Golden Globe-winning Awkwafina) and her vengeful pursuit of a powerful criminal organization headed by ruthless mobster Bellafrancesca Lobo (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her spoiled son, Teddy (Ben Schwartz).
When Quincy crosses paths with Renfield, her investigation begins to merge with his bizarre situation in some very fun ways. The unlikely convergence reaches its peak of uproariousness when it leads to fight sequences featuring choreography straight out of some of the best action scenes from the JOHN WICK movies, but also some morbidly hilarious, over-the-top gore that would make horror-comedy auteur Sam Raimi proud.
A Sinister And Silly Nicolas Cage
Above everything – including the clever, modernized satire of traditional horror fiction and highly stylized, blood-soaked action sequences – the Number One reason to see RENFIELD is Nicolas Cage’s performance as Count Dracula. Pardon the pun, but Cage is bloody brilliant in this role – not only looking the part with his slicked back hair, sickly complexion, and mouthful of fangs, but also employing the villain’s signature characteristics, while hilariously playing into the film’s portrait of him as a textbook narcissist.
However, this performance is nothing like Cage’s famously off-the-wall role in 1988’s VAMPIRE’S KISS – in which he plays a self-centered, delusional publisher believing he has become a creature of the night. It is clear that this role was very important to the actor in the way he portrays Dracula as creepily as Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and other legends have before him. Where much of the comedy is drawn from is his co-stars’ silly reactions to his earnestness, which is relieving, as it very easily could have gone the opposite route.
As a thought-provoking reinterpretation of an underrated horror character which also boasts one of the most impassioned portrayals of Dracula in recent memory, RENFIELD has been chosen as an AMC Thrills & Chills selection. Tickets to see the soon-to-be horror-comedy classic at an AMC Theatres location near you are already available for purchase. Be sure not to wait a vampire’s lifespan to reserve your seat!RENFIELD opens April 14th