Renfield Will Be a Direct Sequel to 1931's Dracula... Which Killed Renfield

Nicolas Cage takes the torch — and cape — from Bela Lugosi.

Universal Pictures

Count Dracula is flapping his bat wings and barging into theaters again, nine years after Universal Pictures’ ill-fated Dracula Untold. This time, the pointy-toothed and flamboyantly-caped horror icon will be played by Nicolas Cage, whose transformation into the Transylvanian terrorizer, much like the actor’s previous bloodsucker stint in 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss, is slated to become meme-able.

Cage will be joined by Nicholas Hoult as R.M. Renfield, the long-suffering servant of Dracula who longs to break free from his “toxic relationship” with his hot-headed and narcissistic boss. Sound familiar? That plot line’s familiarity is by design: Renfield director Chris McKay told Collider that the movie is written as a direct sequel to Tod Browning’s 1931 horror classic, Dracula.

"I guess you could argue Dracula's Daughter (1936) is a sequel because the opening scene is the aftermath of the Tod Browning movie, but Bela Lugosi's not in it, it's a whole different set of characters," McKay said. "It's a great movie, it's wild if you haven't seen it. But to me, this is the only real direct sequel with the Dracula and the Renfield of that movie.”

McKay hoped that Renfield would be advertised as the direct sequel to Dracula, but it wasn’t. “I think it would’ve been a funny way of positioning this movie. The longest time between the original movie and the sequel, beating Psycho or whatever,” McKay said.

Renfield’s marketing team must have disagreed, presumably because the Cage-led horror comedy is a major tonal departure from 1931’s moody black-and-white flick. Renfield follows the forlorn British serf, who’s tired of ensuring his bloodthirsty liege has enough innocent cheerleaders to feed on, and Renfield’s zest for life is reignited when he falls in love with New Orleans traffic cop Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina).

Tod Browning’s Dracula was the first adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel to feature a newfangled moviemaking technology called “sound.”

Universal Pictures

Browning’s Dracula explores the origins of Renfield’s connection to Dracula and the start of his indentured servitude to the eponymous neckbiter. Renfield was a solicitor who traveled to Transylvania to discuss Dracula’s intention to lease Carfax Abbey in England, but Renfield is hypnotized by Dracula and begins to go nutty in the name of his master, helping him go on a murder spree on the ocean voyage to England.

Loads of vampy frightfulness occurs upon the duo’s arrival in London... but by the end of Browning’s Dracula, the count grows paranoid and kills Renfield, only to later be bested by famed hunter Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan).

So if both characters are dead, then how exactly is Renfield a direct sequel to Dracula? We’ll have to wait and see for the big, bloody reveal next month.

Renfield hits theaters on April 14, 2023.

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