Renfield is hitting theaters, offering up a new spin on the old Dracula story. For as much as his role in the movie as Dracula has been hyped up, Nicolas Cage is actually a supporting character in this movie. It’s another Nick that takes center stage as the titular protagonist: Nicholas Hoult.
That said, those who have never read Bram Stoker’s novel (or who have but don’t remember it) can be forgiven for wondering, “Who the hell is Renfield?” For everyone nodding your head right now, no worries: Here’s what you need to know.
Who Is Renfield?
Renfield, full name R.M. Renfield, is actually a very minor character in Bram Stoker’s 1987 novel. He’s confined to an insane asylum and is a patient of Dr. John Seward, as well as a fanatically devoted servant to Dracula. In return, he gets an endless supply of insects to eat and the tantalizing promise of immortality, even though Renfield has appeared to have completely lost his mind. The book describes him as such:
“R. M. Renfield, aetat 59. Sanguine temperament, great physical strength, morbidly excitable, periods of gloom, ending in some fixed idea which I cannot make out. I presume that the sanguine temperament itself and the disturbing influence end in a mentally-accomplished finish, a possibly dangerous man, probably dangerous if unselfish. In selfish men, caution is as secure an armour for their foes as for themselves. What I think of on this point is, when self is the fixed point the centripetal force is balanced with the centrifugal. When duty, a cause, etc., is the fixed point, the latter force is paramount, and only accident or a series of accidents can balance it.”
Throughout the novel, Dr. Seward assumes Renfield is suffering from some form of psychosis, but it’s slowly revealed that it’s not psychosis at all, but that he’s being manipulated and is under the power of Dracula.
How Book Renfield & Movie Renfield Are Alike
While Renfield has clearly taken some liberties with Stoker’s book, not the least of which is that it’s set in the modern era, there are other character-forming similarities between the book and movie version of Renfield. Being Dracula’s familiar, the unhealthy relationship, the bug-eating, etc. are all the same. However, there’s one other similarity that is shared between the two of them: a conscience.
In the Renfield movie, as the trailers have shown, Nicholas Hoult’s character is desperate to break free of his subservience to Dracula and free himself of their toxic relationship. While the version of Renfield in the novel isn’t quite as desperate to be his own man, he does have a crisis of conscience and asks to be freed of Dracula’s control. When he meets the lovely Mina Harker, he can’t bear the thought of helping to make her Dracula’s next victim and begs them to let him go so he can’t be used to give Mina up.
Renfield Kicks Off A Small Wave Of Unique Dracula Stories
In any adaptation of Dracula, the story usually centers on the bloodsucking count himself, or the protagonists trying to kill him. In the case of Renfield, it upends that concept and puts the focus on his hapless minion and lifelong servant. It’s an interesting twist that puts the count in a new light, showing him as the narcissist he is and poking fun at his magnetic personality: after a century, even the charm of Dracula gets old.
But Renfield isn’t the only movie coming out this year that puts a unique spin on Dracula. The Last Voyage of the Demeter, due out later this year, just dropped its first trailer and it’s a doozy. Based on a single standalone chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “The Captain’s Log,” it tells the story of what happened to the crew of the Demeter, the ship that unknowingly carried Dracula’s coffin from Romania to the shores of England. Spoilers: it does not go well for them.
Last but not least, there’s the mysterious project being worked on by Eternals helmer Chloe Zhao, which she’s describing as a sci-fi/Western take on Dracula. With so much in the pipeline, it’s a good time for fans of the Prince of Darkness and new spins on the Count.
Renfield is in theaters. Get tickets now.