Renfield, the latest horror comedy to sink its fangs into the sub-genre of vampires, is a movie that delivers bloody thrills and self-aware humor in equal measure. Starring Nicolas Cage as the sinister and scary Dracula, the film’s well-written humor and tightly constructed action set pieces are elevated by the performances of its main cast.
Based on the core premise of 1931’s Dracula, Renfield follows the story of R.M. Renfield, who has been serving the vampiric count as his human familiar for decades. In exchange for his service, Dracula allows Renfield to drink some of his blood, triggering his superhuman abilities whenever he consumes bugs. As the two make their new home in modern-day New Orleans, Renfield’s chance encounter with a local police officer and the mob will change their dynamic forever.
Director Chris McKay’s flair for self-aware humor is evident throughout the film, and he does an excellent job of balancing the horror and comedy elements. The movie earns its R-rating with its gory and bloody visuals, but the humor keeps things light and fun, with an unabashedly corny ’80s montage sequence at the center of the film. While not every joke lands, Renfield is a lot of fun, particularly when it embraces the goofiness of the premise.
Nicholas Hoult, who plays Renfield, imbues his scenes with engaging nervous energy, selling the premise of Renfield’s quasi-superhero transformation. However, the criminal subplots that draw Renfield out from Dracula’s shadow are the weaker elements of the film, with the mobsters’ jokes falling flat. The movie works best when it pokes fun at vampire tropes, and the comedic sensibilities are firing on all cylinders.
Overall, Renfield is an easy and breezy horror comedy that succeeds in delivering laughs and thrills. At 93 minutes, the film moves at a brisk pace, and screenwriter Ryan Ridley peppers in enough Easter eggs to keep longtime vampire movie fans entertained. Whether you’re a horror fan or a comedy fan, Renfield has something to offer, working best when it knows which tonal swim lane to focus on for a given scene.