Renfield's 12 Most Disturbing Moments, Ranked

Contains spoilers for "Renfield."

2023 has certainly been a campy year for the world of movies so far and we're definitely not complaining. From "M3GAN" to "Cocaine Bear," we've seen movies with thoroughly ridiculous premises attain ample box office success. Next in line this year is "Renfield," directed by Chris McKay and starring Nicholas Hoult in the title role.

The film focuses on Renfield, a familiar in service of the mythic Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage), who's essentially an assistant with magical powers. However, being at the beck and call of a bloodsucking narcissist for hundreds of years doesn't do much for Renfield's self-esteem. Armed with his powers and some self-help books, Renfield looks to take control of his own life and end his never-ending toxic relationship. The film boasts not only a ton of laughs but a slew of effectively disturbing moments as well. So cover your neck and bolt that coffin shut, because these are the 12 most disturbing moments in "Renfield," ranked.

12. The black and white throwback

What's important to know about "Renfield" is that even if it doesn't always succeed at being disturbing, at its worst it's still a lot of fun. The film very much follows in the footsteps of other irreverent horror-comedies such as "Shaun of the Dead," "M3GAN," and "Warm Bodies" — the latter also starring Nicholas Hoult. The film's tongue-in-cheek tone is established right away when we're introduced to the film's framing device, R. M. Renfield's inner monologue.

Through his inner monologue, we are quickly brought up to speed about Renfield's affiliation with Count Dracula. It's here that the film opts to digitally insert both Hoult and Cage into black and white archival footage from the 1931 version of "Dracula." Seeing them in the same shots once occupied by Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye is both funny and somewhat eerie. What's even more impressive about the sequence is just how seamless the digital swaps are, with neither of them ever really breaking the illusion.

If you are a geek for the original Universal Studios monster movies, especially Lugosi's version of Dracula, then this sequence will have you either grinning from ear to ear or vaguely unnerved. For many, Lugosi's portrayal as the mythic Prince of Darkness is one of the greatest live-action interpretations of Bram Stoker's legendary villain. As surreal as it is, this opening sequence definitely gives the audience a sense of just how campy the proceedings are going to be.

11. Renfield kills drug dealers and a hitman

After we're properly situated with Renfield as our protagonist, we get a much clearer, and utterly gruesome look, at what exactly he does for his master. It seems that the indentured familiar must traverse the city nightlife and bring back a never-ending succession of victims for Dracula. However, Renfield does possess a moral compass and has found an alternative method of collecting meals for his master. Through attending the meetings of a dependent relationship counseling group, Renfield is able to locate toxic and easily expendable people to poach.

After hearing one woman's story about her toxic ska-loving boyfriend, Renfield heads off to collect Dracula's breakfast. Renfield drops in on the boyfriend who, as it happens, has just helped rip off cocaine from a rival gang. In short order, Renfield slaughters all of the gang members in a gruesomely gory fight sequence set to classical music. However, it seems a hit man has been summoned to the same location, and the hitman goes as far as to slash open Renfield's stomach, leaving his guts to spill out in a sickening display. This gratuitous sequence reaches its crescendo when Renfield shanks the hitman with a pen and sends his head flying into the window of Teddy Lobo's (Ben Schwartz) car.

10. Renfield saves a restaurant

Following the head incident, Tommy Lobo is captured by a low-level police officer named Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), following a chase scene involving bricks of cocaine. However, due to his affluent connections and a healthy dose of police corruption, Lobo is released before he can admit to anything. This leads to Lobo being directed by his mother Ella (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to get his hands dirty and remove Officer Quincy from the equation for good. This coincides with Quincy finding a pen at the crime scene from Mulates, a restaurant that Renfield frequents between his tasks for Dracula.

However, at the same time that Quincy and her partner show up, Lobo and his men appear as well to take her out. What ensues is a brutal fight in which gunshots are fired, bones are broken, and Lobo himself is even shanked with a fork. The highlight is most definitely when Renfield, suddenly an unlikely hero, removes a thug's arms with, to quote Quincy herself, "a decorative serving platter." This results in twin geysers of blood erupting from both his arms, which is both simultaneously hysterical and disturbing.

9. Renfield kills the corrupt police force

Partway through the film, Quincy is betrayed by the entire police department, all of whom have the Lobo family's hands in their pockets. This results in a shootout and brief chase scene after Quincy falsely arrests an innocent Renfield for the murder of the support group. However, during their escape, Quincy is wounded, which leads Renfield to bring her back to his apartment. It's here he's able to explain his backstory just before the corrupt police force shows up to neutralize both of them. What ensues is a fight scene best described as "Upgrade" meets "The Toxic Avenger," with epic moments of aerial agility mixed with copious bodily fluids.

As Renfield engages in hand-to-hand combat with multiple cops at once, Quincy is forced into a gunfight with limited ammo. The scene concludes when Renfield, once again, removes a man's arms by force, only this time opting to use them as weapons. He then proceeds to use the arms as gory nunchucks before killing two cops by throwing them like Olympic javelins. As they depart the apartment complex, we see just how many bodies Renfield has left in his wake. This results in a hilarious reaction from Quincy, who notes that this will always be what she's referencing in the future when she says, "I've seen worse."

8. Dracula and Renfield's first on-screen kills

It seems that after hundreds and hundreds of years of murdering innocents, Dracula has racked up an impressive enemies list. This is confirmed when Dracula's secret lair is attacked by a group of armed vampire hunters and a Catholic bishop. Renfield literally leaps into action, showing an early taste of his heightened abilities as a familiar. It's explained that familiars can enhance their abilities by eating different bugs, kind of like the power-ups from "Super Mario Bros."

Renfield soundly defeats the vampire hunters just as the bishop traps Dracula in a magical protection circle made of blue fire. As the bishop explains, he'll be able to finally stop Dracula once and for all, meaning that Renfield will finally be free. However, ever the manipulator, Dracula pulls the "best friends forever" card on Renfield, causing him to break the protection circle. This allows Dracula, despite being exposed to direct sunlight, to attack the bishop and drain him of his blood. The scene concludes with Dracula comically burnt to a crisp, much like Daffy Duck in a "Looney Tunes" cartoon. It's a fittingly ridiculous reveal for an already ridiculous scene that helps get the audience up to speed on Dracula and Renfield's powers.

7. Dracula's sickly rotting form

Partway through the film's first act, we get to see Dracula shortly after being charred in the sunlight during the attempt on his undead life. We're shown that, after being chased out of every major country and city in the world, Dracula and Renfield are forced to reside in a dilapidated hotel. The basement has been fully tricked out to be Dracula-appropriate, complete with glowing blood bags, cobwebs and, as we see later, piles of rotting bodies. It's also where we learn that without ample sustenance, Dracula's healing process is both slow and very gruesome.

Dracula approaches Renfield for his belated meal, revealing his current form as a disfigured body with skin hanging off of it. In a film rife with computer-generated blood effects, we're treated to some effectively icky and impressively practical makeup effects. Credit to Cage, who is able to convey an ample amount of humor and menace even behind the latex prosthetics. Throughout the first third of the film, Dracula slowly regains his original form, with more hair and skin growing back every time we see him. It's a great visual effect and definitely helps convey just how much of an actual monster Dracula is, despite his suave presentation.

6. Dracula wounds Renfield

After we're treated to our first taste of Dracula's emaciated form, we are then shown just how abusive he is towards poor Renfield. It seems that the bodies Renfield has collected for his master are, to be generous, just a bit off the mark from what Dracula wanted. With both victims already dead and one missing a head, Dracula is far from pleased with the sickening offering. Despite Renfield trying to explain how hard it is to accrue victims in the modern world, Dracula doesn't seem like one to accept excuses. In an act of unbridled malice, he claws Renfield in the gut, reopening his familiar's wound and spilling his guts out again.

Dracula makes things very crystal clear for him: no one's needs, especially Renfield's, matter except for his own. This is where we learn that Dracula's blood, much like that of the vampires on HBO's "True Blood," has healing properties. He then demands a better crop of victims, including (but not limited to) Catholic nuns or a school bus full of cheerleaders. It's a short scene but one that quickly communicates just how bad Renfield has had it being indentured to the literal embodiment of evil.

5. Renfield defeats Dracula

The film comes to a head in the final third when Dracula aligns himself with the Lobo family to take down Renfield and Officer Quincy. What ensues is something that can only be described as "The Matrix: Reloaded" with gore being thrown everywhere. It seems that Tommy Lobo, as well as his entire crew, receive a unique perk by aligning themselves with Dracula: the abilities of a familiar. This means that, much like Renfield, they have a small percentage of Dracula's power, making them absurdly strong and agile.

After dispatching Tommy and his goons, Renfield goes to save Quincy from Dracula, who is attempting to court her over to the dark side. She baits him by pretending to accept, before activating the windows and flooding the room with sunlight. Dracula escapes into a theater within the building when he menaces a seemingly helpless Quincy as the stage lights flicker on and off. However, while up in the air, Quincy is able to shoot Dracula's foot, causing his healing blood to drip into Renfield's mouth and revive him.

With his strength restored, Renfield is finally able to stand up to Dracula, even ripping his fangs out in the process. Emboldened by what he learned in the support group, Renfield finally overpowers Dracula and beats him down like a UFC fighter.

4. Disposing of Dracula's body

After beating his former master into submission, Renfield uses an impromptu protection circle, made of stolen cocaine, to trap Dracula. Renfield tells Dracula that his time is at an end and that he's about to die. Dracula proceeds to go out in just about the most Nicolas Cage way possible, saying "I wish to spend a season in hell" before throwing up devil horns.

Now usually, things like holy water, crucifixes, wooden stakes, silver, and direct sunlight are fatal to vampires. However, per Renfield's inner monologue, we learn that the things that definitively kill vampires aren't exactly confirmed in this world. So Renfield and Quincy, armed with a lavish assortment of weapons, begin a montage sequence of violently eviscerating the Count. 

This includes bludgeoning him, shooting him, stabbing him and even melting him before dumping his goopy remains into a cement mixer. They then pour his cemented, smothered remnants into an ice cube tray before freezing it and dumping the chunks in the sewer. Many horror fanatics have probably imagined a scenario like this — comedically trying out every method under the sun to kill a monster. "Renfield" has seen fit to take this idea to its gnarliest and funniest of conclusions, resulting in one of the film's most satisfyingly gruesome scenes.

3. Dracula enters Renfield's apartment

You might remember Nicolas Cage's flamboyant performance in "Vampire's Kiss," in which he plays a mentally ill man who thinks he's becoming a vampire. That cornball performance is worth noting here, as it can't be overstated just how entertaining Nicolas Cage is as Dracula. As much as he's been meme'd to death for his over-the-top moments, we can never forget that Cage is legitimately talented. As funny as the idea of Cage portraying the legendary vampire is on paper, he really throws everything into the role.

One of the scenes where Cage really gets to shine, both in terms of humor and horror, is when Dracula arrives at Renfield's new apartment. The image of Dracula, in his full garb, casually chilling at the kitchen table just waiting for Renfield is priceless. It's here that Cage really gets to play with the role, utilizing some hysterical facial expressions while listening to Renfield's excuses. On a dime, he's able to crank up the menace when he begins threatening Renfield and tearing down any self-worth he'd recently built up. He even goes as far as to self-victimize himself, saying that he's the one who's really been hurt in this situation. This is one of the moments in which Cage's performance as the Prince of Darkness is at its most disturbing.

2. Teddy Lobo meets his end

One of the biggest highlights of "Renfield" is Ben Schwartz as Teddy Lobo, a hapless mobster with a severe lack of common sense. He's introduced to Dracula when he invades the abandoned hotel with his men in search of Renfield. After Dracula quickly dispatches Teddy's goons, he intimidates Teddy into revealing why he's there, leading to Dracula learning about Renfield's heroic escapades.

Teddy is able to forge an alliance with Dracula, especially once it's revealed that the Count has aspirations of world conquest. It's immediately clear that Dracula basically sees Teddy on the same level as Renfield, only perhaps more sadistic. With Dracula and the Lobo family fully aligned, Dracula turns Teddy and his friends into familiars like Renfield. This means Teddy can finally fight Renfield on even footing, matching his speed and strength in a brutal one-on-one fight.

The fight concludes in grand fashion when Renfield drop kicks Tommy in the sternum, liquifying his skeleton and organs on impact. Gore and blood then eject out of Tommy's mouth, as well as ... somewhere else, leaving him a literal empty husk dying on the floor. This is quite fitting as both Dracula and Tommy call Renfield a husk throughout the movie as an insult.

1. Dracula kills Renfield's support group

It's important to note once again that "Renfield" is a horror-comedy, so even when it's being funny it's also simultaneously disturbing. However, one scene bereft of nearly any humor is when Dracula deduces who's been putting ideas of self-improvement in Renfield's head. After learning that a local church is the dependent relationship counseling group's location, the Count immediately flies off. Renfield gives chase and arrives just in time to warn everyone of his master's arrival, but nobody believes him when he says they're in danger.

So when Dracula arrives at the door, the group's naive counselor is quick to invite him in, sealing their fates. After a thoroughly cheesy introduction, Dracula throws Renfield out of the way and goes to work slaughtering the entire group. In a film mostly filled with laughs, it's a scene that thoroughly cements Nicolas Cage as an effectively intimidating Dracula. It helps that the actor's already expressive face is intensified by gnarly-looking, sharp teeth and gaunt, pale skin. But Cage is completely in his element here, perfectly encapsulating the film's balance of scares and laughs by remaining funny and menacing.