A star rating of 3 out of 5.

Gore and gags splatter the screen with grisly abandon in hyperactive horror comedy Renfield. Nicholas Hoult stars as Dracula’s hapless, bug-eating servant, who’s been sourcing blood donors for his voracious boss (Nicolas Cage) for well over a century, and now he wants a way out of this toxic relationship.


With the Count a little worse for wear after an unfortunate encounter with some daylight leaves him barbecued to a crisp, Renfield takes him to recuperate in New Orleans. There Renfield joins a self-help group for people with abusive partners.

Not, at first, because he believes he needs help, but because he’s becoming ever more uncomfortable plying his boss with his favourite snacks – nuns, tourists and cheerleaders.

Renfield reasons that the group members’ lowlife other halves are “monsters” who deserve to become vampire take-out. Drac, however, is not impressed with the narcotics-laced blood Renfield is bringing him.

Then Renfield witnesses plucky young cop Qunicy (Awkwafina) standing up to a local crime boss and his goons, and is inspired to step in and help her out. Because, obviously, in the current cinematic climate, Renfield isn’t just the creepy, insect-munching lawyer of Bram Stoker’s novel, but a bug-powered superhero, with some serious fighting moves.

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Together they mutilate most of the gang (for a cop who constantly calls out the standards of her colleagues, Quincy is remarkably unfazed by Renfield slicing bad guys to pieces) and Renfield has an epiphany: he likes being a good(ish) guy, and he’s going to take back his life. Like Drac’s going to let that happen.

Hoult and Cage are huge fun in this messy black comedy, which misses as often as it hits. It’s directed by Chris McKay, who did such an excellent job with The Lego Batman Movie – a sharp, incisively funny and inventive film that also cleverly explored the Bat-mythology.

Renfield has moments of similar wit and opens very promisingly with a montage of Hoult’s and Cage’s faces cheekily CGI-ed onto into clips from classic Universal horror movies, including the Count’s first meeting with Renfield in Todd Browning’s 1932 Dracula. You can almost hear cineastes squirming in disgust.

Nicolas Cage in Renfield
Nicolas Cage in Renfield. Universal

Hoult is wonderful in the central role – a kind of dishevelled, amoral take on Hugh Grant’s diffident Brit out of water – and delivers a constantly amusing, deadpan narration.

Cage is equally watchable as a deliciously over-the-top Dracula who gets all the best lines (“I am the victim here!”) and strikes some gloriously arch poses (though British viewers familiar with The Fast Show may not be able to get Paul Whitehouse’s Nosferatu out of their heads).

Sadly, the film doesn’t play to its strengths. It could have been a character-based comedy in the vein of What We Do in the Shadows, but instead opts for a Matthew (Kick-Ass) Vaughn-style designer violence approach, with cascades of blood and guts spilling all over the place, violent bowel ejections and slow-motion fight scenes underscored by classical music (Habanera from Carmen in this case).

The in-your-face gore and action elements in the film work well enough, and there are a few memorable “what the hell am I looking at?” gross-out images to savour. However, they often swamp the film’s more interesting, and funnier aspects.

The high-octane, over-amped plotting leaves little room for quieter character moments, which is a shame as those are often the highlights. Indeed, one of the best gags involves nothing more than a door mat. But the film seems desperate to get back to the shouty gangsters and dismemberment as quickly and as often as possible.

For splatterfest and cult movie fans, there’s much to enjoy in Renfield. You just can’t help thinking there’s a much better film buried in a coffin somewhere inside it.

Renfield is set to land in cinemas on 14th April 2023. Wondering what to watch on TV? Visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


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