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‘Renfield’: A New Dracula Buddy Film


Laurel and Hardy. Gilligan and the Skipper. Bert and Ernie. These are some of pop culture’s classic buddy teams. This April, Universal Pictures brings back another team to the big screen: Dracula and Renfield. For those who are unaware, Renfield first appeared in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula serving as Count Dracula’s devoted servant and familiar. Although featured in the many different film versions of Dracula since 1922, the character of Renfield is often forgotten. This time around though, he gets star billing.

Dwight Frye played Universal’s first Renfield character in 1931’s Dracula. His character was a real estate agent who was sent to Transylvania to meet with Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula, but ends up falling prey to the vampire’s controlling power. The new 2023 story couldn’t be any more different. Renfield is a modern, comedy/horror film about the vampire’s servant and his co-dependent relationship with his boss.

Dwight Frye at Renfield in 1931’s Dracula. (Wikimedia)

Renfield is Universal’s latest attempt to bring back the studio’s line of classic monsters which began as far back as 2012 with Dracula Reborn. The modern tale of the blood sucker didn’t win over critics or fans. Not deterred, the studio then attempted to create a “Dark Universe” where many of those classic monsters would live in a shared world. The first film of this new franchise began in 2017 with an updated version of The Mummy that starred Tom Cruise. The film performed so poorly that the studio scrapped the Dark Universe franchise but continued on with plans of more revivals. The next film, 2020’s scary The Invisible Man, which starred Elisabeth Moss was much more successful and proved that they were heading in the right direction.

Nicholas Hoult stars as Renfield, a troubled servant who has to contend with the very narcissistic Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage). As with the source material, Renfield is forced to procure his master’s prey and do his every bidding, no matter how debased in exchange for the promise of immortality. Universal says that “after centuries of servitude, Renfield is ready to see if there’s a life outside the shadow of The Prince of Darkness. If only he can figure out how to end his codependency.”

If you recall, this isn’t Nicolas Cage’s first attempt to play a vampire. He did so once before in the 1989 horror flick bomb, Vampire’s Kiss. Hopefully things will play out better for him this time around. I don’t know if this my kind of film, but the concept is great.

Renfield is directed by Chris McKay from a screenplay by Ryan Ridley which itself is based on an original idea by The Walking Dead and Invincible creator Robert Kirkman. The film co-stars Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz and Adrian Martinez. The movie opens in theaters on April 14, 2023.

Main Image: Universal Pictures

Jeffrey Totey View All

I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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