Mortal Kombat – with Dracula

It’s partly tragic Universal had to take their iconic horror films toward parody for them to work in contemporary times. Failures with the Wolf Man, Mummy, and Dracula Untold led to a potential disaster in Renfield, sold on the schlock ideal of Nicolas Cage playing Bela Lugosi. In fact, that’s the least entertaining piece of Renfield.

Nothing against Cage’s portrayal, one that links directly back to Lugosi’s original performance (with digitally altered effects), but it’s the sheer will of this movie to succeed that makes it click. It’s relentlessly crude, setting an immediate and grotesquely violent tone via its action, then winding back around to give Nicholas Hoult’s Renfield every chance to win an audience. He does.

Were this 1940 or so, Renfield might exist as a monster brawl

Were this 1940 or so, Renfield might exist as a monster brawl, the House of Frankenstein or Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man scenario where the only goal was to put monsters on screen. Usually a letdown (the title fights happened with minutes left to go), Renfield takes an admittedly tired Marvel approach. It’s wild, effects-laden, and ludicrous, but so egregiously over-the-top, it overcomes that familiarity.

Cage clearly has a blast playing this role, but it’s thankfully reserved compared to many “Cage” performances. There is a slight Lugosi tick to his mannerisms, blended with Christopher Lee from his time as the screen’s blood-sucker. Importantly, this isn’t total parody, just absurd, and if anything, it’s parodying the audience’s need for ever more extreme bloodshed.

Assuming Universal’s golden era horror films never died down in popularity, they’d almost certainly end up like this, reaching for the exploitation value as other ideas were used up. It’s odd (doubly so as a genuine, die-hard classic horror aficionado) to say Renfield awkwardly fits into that lineage. The central concept, that for nearly a century Renfield helplessly served his master and finally chooses to break away, logically fits into those often muddled storylines. The scripts rarely paid heed to continuity; if anything, Renfield stays closer to Dracula 1931 than its own sequels.

For a fresh audience though, those not acutely aware of Lugosi, Karloff, and Lon Chaney Jr., Renfield toys with grounding the material in mental distress. While initially mocking group therapy (like so many other films using this for comedy), those meetings become a saving grace for Renfield, plus providing comical interactions. Awkwafina plays the straight woman, a cop out to avenger her father’s death, baffled by all that she sees, but without a choice but to keep going. She’s fantastic too in a project everyone involved clearly “got” as intended.

Renfield Blu-ray screen shot


With a wild, erratic color palette, Renfield isn’t boring. Streaks of aggressive teal, ridiculously bright reds, and (generally) average flesh tones can swap and change scene-to-scene. If it’s gaudy, it’s supposed to be.

Renfield’s bright contrast and dense black levels help, driving the depth to an impressive degree. Universal skipping a 4K release robs Renfield of potentially great HDR, but so be it. This disc hits Blu-ray’s peak on both ends.

Digitally lensed, clean cinematography sees minimal noise creep into the image. A few rough spots aside, the encode disappears, leaving behind only outstanding clarity. From this, definition can stand out. High source resolution brings detail, somewhat softened, but impressive regardless.


Bass reaches a steady depth, but it’s not the tightest. The rumble shakes the room, but it’s loose and ill-defined. The bass’ aggressiveness might impress to some degree, especially amid the boomy action, yet it eventually turns repetitious, or even unidentifiable. Fights scenes balance a high-range score, gunshots, and punches, all pushing hearty bass together, but in one mass of sound.

Oddly, Universal goes with DTS-HD 7.1 rather than DTS:X or Atmos. Thankfully, Renfield has a blast mixing the soundstage. Positional action tracks Dracula’s movement as he flies about, and any gunfire/arrows/severed heads jump front to back or side-to-side.


Deleted scenes, alternate takes, an EPK on Cage’s role, a general making of, and a look at the rejuvenation effects fill a pithy menu. But, head into the audio menu for a commentary with producer Samantha Nisenboim and writer Ryan Ridley.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Relentlessly funny as it pushes the right extremes, Renfield is a surprising jolt of horror comedy and explicit gore.

User Review
3 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 37 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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