It’s been a while since vampires have really dominated pop culture like they did back in the 2000s. The same could be said for ol’ Dracula, too. The days of Universal and Hammer Films are unfortunately far behind us, and Dracula hasn’t really found a way to find the same success since then. Sure there’s things like Hotel Transylvania, but nothing to really satiate the Dracula fan club looking for some bloody good fun. The character needed some revitalization, and who better to help with that than a man fairly familiar with vampires, Nicholas Cage. In truth, it’s the casting I never knew I wanted, evident by this film’s opening montage, recreating scenes from the 1931 film with Cage in Bela Lugosi’s spot. Cage looks the part and has the gravitas for the role, so I was fairly interested in a film that not only gave Cage this opportunity, but has also created an interesting pseudo-sequel of sorts to that 1931 film. 

Renfield follows the titular character, a former real-estate agent who gets coerced into becoming Dracula’s loyal servant, helping him over the decades with his murderous tendencies. Now in the modern day, the un-aged Renfield grows longing for a normal life free of the vampire lord’s grasps. After meeting a headstrong cop trying to take down a local crime syndicate, Renfield hopes to use his Dracula-bestowed super powers to break free and help become a modern day hero.

Nicholas Hoult as Renfield

So this is essentially an action horror comedy, and it occasionally nails this genre melding. The aforementioned Cage as Dracula is great campy fun, while Nicholas Hoult does a decent enough job as the titular protagonist. So it’s such a shame that the film fails its multiple genres more often than it succeeds through them, with grating comedy, a heavy use of digital blood, and a hamfisted commentary on codependence keeps the film from being the off-the-wall concept film it could have been.

The film was very up and down for me from the beginning. Like I said it starts with those scene recreations, but they’re basically used as a big exposition dump that’s kicked off with a “Yeah, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got here” type scene. It really made me wish more of the movie was spent showing and expanding upon the relationship between Renfield and Dracula, rather than trying to quickly condense it so it can get to its main plot. Thankfully the film does pick up once it settles into the story, leading to some admittedly good comedy and action. Cage and Hoult’s interactions are pretty fun, and Renfield’s dilemma is given a fairly fun modern twist by framing it around modern discussions of codependency and toxic relationships. This theme becomes heavier and heavier as the film progresses, and it becomes a bit too forced. It could have just been played for comedy, but it becomes more apparent that the movie is trying to have a message that doesn’t really work.

Nicholas Cage as Dracula

Luckily the comedy and action tends to keep things going, due in part to a fantastic performance from Ben Schwartz as mafia mama’s boy Teddy Lobo, giving an R-rated, unhinged spin on Jean-Ralphio. Who really should have been funnier here though is Akwafina, someone who I think gets a lot of unnecessary hate, but I could just be a huge The Farewell supporter. Her role as a vengeful cop fighting back against a department full of dirty cops doesn’t give her a lot of room to do what she’s good at, while her story feels a bit too shoehorned in when more focus could have been given towards Renfield and Dracula’s dynamic. 

Like I said before, the film is an amalgamation of different genres, never really nailing one completely, but coming close enough to make the film at least palatable. As a horror film, it’s not exactly scary, though it does remind me a lot of 80s horror films in color and aesthetic. It definitely aims for the campy route, which I think it nails thanks to its lead performances and over the top uses of gore. This leads into the action scenes, which more often than not are filled with severed limbs, decapitated heads, and a whole lot of blood. Digital blood that is. On one hand it leans into the cartoonish nature of the story, but at the same time it almost feels like it’s not even there. Renfield will literally make a guy explode in front of him and he comes out without a single drop on him. Maybe that’s another vampire ability he forgot to mention. Luckily these fight scenes are shot with such a high energy that reverberates throughout the scene without taking away from the choreography. The fake looking gore is both a plus and minus depending on how you look at it. For me, I just wanted a bit more stains, you know?

Somehow this barely over 90 minutes film manages to really drag as the film enters its climax. The action isn’t as enticing as before, and the comedy really seemed to take a nosedive. The story unfortunately becomes overstuffed trying to juggle both the crime thriller side story and the blow off between Dracula and Renfield, culminating with the film once again hammering in it’s “message” to the point where I would have been fine if this element was either a one time joke or just omitted entirely. Even if the fun comes in growingly smaller doses as the film goes on, the performances and over the top action lend the film some decently memorable moments. I just wish the film could have been a bit more consistent, deciding to focus on the more interesting relationship between Dracula and Renfield while abandoning the uninteresting police procedural side story. While occasionally feeling like the diet version of a mainstream superhero film, I’m all for more solid horror icon recasting. Get Jason Mamoa as the Wolfman and Steve Bushcemi as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Dark Universe is back in business.


(out of a possible 5 cloves of garlic)

Dracula Blood

In Renfield, Dracula’s blood holds the power to heal mortal wounds and even bring people back from the dead. And while we tend to see it in a pitcher in the film, I’ve decided to lean into the gothic class of the Count by trying to replicate a martini glass filled with blood and eyeballs Dracula enjoys at one point in the film. For this cocktail I’ve implored red port wine to give the drink it’s necessary bloody appearance, while also adding an alluring richness. Lillet blanc and lemon juice give the drink a light brightness, while the rye whiskey adds a feint but noticable bite. Finally, to replicate the eyeballs, I decided to add a blueberry to my ice spheres to mimic a pupil. You can go this route, but feel free to garnish the drink with any of your favorite eyeball subsitutes!


  • 1oz Red port wine
  • 1oz Rye whiskey
  • 1oz Lillet blanc
  • 1/2oz Lemon Juice
  • Ice spheres with a blueberry inside


  1. Add ingredients to a mixing glass and stir with ice.
  2. Strain into a martini glass filled with prepared ice molds.

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