Renfield has no business being as good as it is. Never mind that it is directed by a comedic genius like Chris McKay. Forget that it was plotted by Robert Kirkman (who might have written some comics you’ve read) and scripted by Rick and Morty writer Ryan Ridley. Ignore that it features talented comedic actors like Nicholas Hoult and Awkwafina. The main thing selling this movie is Nicholas Cage as Dracula. That in itself would be enough, but Renfield gives us so much more.
In the unlikely event that you’re unfamiliar with the Dracula legend, the opening scenes of Renfield lay it all out. Robert Montague Renfield is that most loathsome and despised of creatures – a lawyer who also dabbles in real estate. Over a century ago, he abandoned his wife and daughter in favor of a lucrative career as Count Dracula’s henchman. In exchange for his loyalty, Renfield was given immortality and some low-level vampire powers whenever he eats an insect. This is all closer to how the World of Darkness games handle ghouls and vampires than Bram Stoker, but it’s a solid base for the madness that follows.
Weakened after a battle with several vampire hunters, Dracula relocates to New Orleans, where Renfield busies himself finding new victims to restore his master to his former glory. There’s no shortage of lost souls in The Big Easy and Renfield starts attending group therapy meetings, seeking out depressives whose lives are so miserable they might welcome death. Instead, the therapy starts to to make Renfield wonder if he’s trapped in an abusive relationship. He also has a chance encounter with Rebecca Quincy, an idealistic traffic cop who sees Renfield as an unlikely partner in her efforts to bring down the gangsters that killed her father.
Every aspect of Renfield sings. The script is hilarious. The direction is flawless. The ensemble play off each other perfectly, like a finely tuned machine. The special effects are impressive, from the desiccated make-up designs for the injured Dracula to the effects used to make Nicholas Cage look like Bela Lugosi in the flashbacks based on the classic Dracula movie.
In short, Renfield is a vampire movie that does not suck. Fans of horror comedy will be able to sink their teeth into this one, but I think it will appeal to more general audiences as well. I dare say that Nicholas Cage might get another Oscar for this one.