Back in 2017, Universal Pictures unveiled plans for a series of interlinked action films, each starring an A-lister and an iconic monster from their 1930s and 1940s classics. But when Tom Cruise’s The Mummy unravelled at the box office, so did the so-called “Dark Universe” franchise.
In 2020, the studio changed tack with The Invisible Man, a standalone “re-imagining” of the 1933 classic featuring Elisabeth
Moss as the abused wife of an unseeable tech whizz.
Now we have Renfield, a horror comedy that allows Nicolas Cage to get his teeth into cinema’s most iconic bloodsucker.
In the decades since Bela Lugosi’s 1931 Dracula (recreated here in a slick black-and-white preamble), the Count’s “familiar” Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has been delivering fresh corpses to his master which have been slowly returning him to fullstrength.
“Don’t make it a sexual thing,” snaps a ropey-looking Dracula after ordering a busload of cheerleaders. Renfield reluctantly complies.
The overarching joke is that the impressionable lackey has fallen under the spell of a therapy support group for victims of abusive relationships.
An empowered Renfield, who has been bestowed with a fraction of the Prince Of Darkness’s superstrength, decides to turn good and team up with Awkwafina’s cop to bring down the crime family that has forged an alliance with the Count.
It’s a decent gag stretched rather thinly over 90 minutes.
Still, Cage offers great value as the aristocratic vampire. Lugosi is the main influence, but there is also a drop of Christopher Lee and Lon Chaney.
He’s scary but also devilishly sarcastic. His scenes with Hoult are so entertaining, you wish there were more of them.
Sadly, too much of the running time is devoted to cartoon violence, as Hoult tears apart mobsters and Drac gnashes on the innocent. It’s fun but a bit draining.