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Renfield is an Inspiring and Gory Success

“I don’t ask much, Renfield.”

I’ve seen a LOT of vampire movies, and most them in the last decade or so have tried to “turn the vampire story on its head” or reinvent the genre instead of, you know, telling a story about a vampire. Those movies tend to get lost chasing their own tails, but Renfield hits all the right notes.

This movie stars Nicolas Cage as Count Dracula, which is just weird. I don’t get him. The audience laughed at nearly all of his serious lines. It’s like he’s being cast just to create a spectacle.

Thankfully, he’s not the main character. Most of the screen time goes to Dracula’s familiar, Renfield, played hysterically by Nicholas Hoult. (Remember him as R from Warm Bodies?) You might start getting What We Do in the Shadows vibes here, because we have a meek-but-hypercompetent familiar trying to serve a bombastic vampire boss who's stuck in the past, but, trust me, Renfield takes the story in its own direction.

Renfield’s job is to bring Dracula food, because the prince of darkness isn’t feeling well and needs to feed on the blood of innocents. Renfield, being a nice guy, would rather not be a murderer, so he comes up with a brilliant plan. Instead of innocent victims, he’ll bring Dracula bad guys, like drug dealers and wife beaters, but his plan backfires when Renfield accidentally becomes the number one enemy of the local mafia.

Fortunately, Renfield is no slouch. He’s got powers of his own, fueled by... eating bugs. Sounds weird, but this is a shout out to the original novel, where a freakishly strong inmate named Renfield collects bugs on his asylum window sill as he waits for Dracula to show up.

This leads to action and gore and lots of satisfying fights where Renfield turns mobsters into bags of blood, but that’s not the best part.

The best part of the movie is when Renfield visits a church to join a self-help group for people who have been hurt by narcissists and toxic relationships. After he's encouraged to take his life back, Renfield makes some long overdue changes. He hits up Old Navy and buys brightly colored clothes, he talks positively to himself, and he rents his own (well-lit) apartment, complete with inspirational posters and a cheery welcome mat.

While it's a great vampire flick that explores the lore and expands on on classic monster stories, Renfield is also a rallying cry for co-dependents who want inspiration. It’s empowering. The scene where Renfield rips a guy's arm off and uses it to kill another guy pales compared to the moment when Renfield stands up to Dracula and says, “I am enough, I deserve happiness, and I take full charge of my life!”

Final Analysis: Renfield succeeds where most monster movies fail. Four out of five cocaine circles.

Adam D. Jones is a writer and film buff who loves vampire stories, because they make him feel better about the migraines that keep him from going outside during the day. He promises not to eat anyone.

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