As with the likes of fellow literary stalwarts Sherlock Holmes and Ebeneezer Scrooge, Dracula is a character––primarily thanks to author Bram Stoker––who has been seared into the public consciousness for more than a century.
And like those others, the vampire has been adapted many, many times through the years. So, what is there to do that is fresh about the world’s preeminent member of the fang club? Here comes horror-action-comedy ‘Renfield’ with potentially a new take: Dracula as toxic boss.
Alright, so it’s not completely 100% original; there have been stories told from Renfield’s point of view before and series such as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ had some fun with the concept (Nicholas Brandon’s Xander Harris became the bloodsucker’s latest employee in the episode ‘Buffy vs. Dracula’). But here, with Nicholas Hoult and Nicolas Cage starring, ‘Renfield’ has its own angle.
Hoult plays the title character, a man who has spent centuries in servitude to Cage’s narcissistic, powerful Dracula, forced to procure victims on which the vampire can feast.
Now, though, in our modern era, he’s finally had enough, and has decided to bare his soul (or at least as much as he’s able to explain) in a support group for those who feel like they’re in abusive or toxic relationships/work environment.
As Renfield himself says, though, the modern world can be a dangerous place, and when he’s caught up in an armed robbery, we learn something that he got out of his time with Dracula: consuming insects (ew!) gives Renfield extra strength, speed, and agility, turning him into something more like ‘Blade’ than his former employer.
When, in the course of taking out the robbers, he saves traffic cop Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), Renfield thinks he might have a course to a more normal life. But, of course, there is a Dracula-shaped spanner about to be thrown into the works.
Originally dreamt up by Robert Kirkman (a man with well-burnished horror credentials after creating the comic book series ‘The Walking Dead’ and helping to launch the slightly successful TV adaptation of that), the script for Renfield comes from Ryan Ridley.
Calling the shots, meanwhile, is Chris McKay who did fun things with ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ and has certainly leaned into the crazed energy being given off all over the place by Cage in his brief appearance.
It’s somewhat naturally heavier on Hoult, since it’s more about his character, but that’s no bad thing, as the British actor has shown plenty of comic chops to go with his dramatic side in the likes of ‘The Favourite’, ‘The Great’ and ‘Warm Bodies’ (and his pale look in this is reminiscent of that zombie rom-com.)
Awkwafina and Brandon Scott Jones are also featured, though notable by their absence so far are the likes of castmates Ben Schwartz and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
Oh, and while the YouTube version of the trailer has plenty of action, the social media version is even bloodier (trigger warning for an exploding priest)…
‘Renfield’ will be stalking into theaters on April 14th.