Yes, Master: Horror’s 5 Most Memorable Sidekicks
The phrase “It sucks to be you” has never applied to anyone more than it does to Dracula’s steadfast servant and sidekick, R.M. Renfield. The Count’s faithful devotee made his first appearance in Tod Browning’s Dracula in 1931 starring Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Dwight Frye as Renfield. Following David Gordon Green’s lead with the latest Halloween trilogy, director Adam McKay chose to make his action-comedy Renfield a direct legacy sequel to Browning’s black-and-white masterpiece.
Picking up the story nearly one hundred years later, Nicolas Cage channels Lugosi’s spirit and even mimics the Hungarian-American actor’s facial expressions in McKay’s new film. Reportedly, Cage even filed down his own teeth in order to fit the fanged dentures required for the part. Nicholas Hoult didn’t need to do an impression of Frye, or any other iteration of Renfield, to be convincing, however. Hoult’s version of Renfield is too busy dealing with his toxic relationship with Dracula in a self-help group. This Renfield is also too caught up being an unlikely action hero, as well.
In honor of Renfield and to recognize his dedication to such a demanding job, it could be fun to celebrate some of the people behind the curtain that are always there to protect their maker. So, without further hesitation, here are five of our favorite sidekicks in the genre.
Tom Waits in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Lounge singer turned art rock crooner, Tom Waits, chooses his roles very carefully. In Francis Ford Coppola’s operatic take on the classic tale, Waits’ interpretation of Dracula’s sidekick is tortured and manic. Before Keanu Reeves’ Jonathan Harker ever set foot inside Dracula’s (Gary Oldman) castle, it was Renfield who was sent there first to discuss real estate with the Count. Driven mad by the broken promise of eternal life, Renfield is condemned to rot in a mental asylum. But he never loses touch with Dracula to his own detriment. Waits’ performance is spectacular and he commands the screen for the short time he’s featured in Coppola’s sprawling, moody epic.
Håkan in Let the Right One In
Sorry Renfield, Let the Right One is still the best vampire movie of the last 20 years. Based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel of the same name, Tomas Alfredson adaptation is a cold, brutal masterpiece about betrayal, friendship, and the curse of time. In the film, actor Per Ragnar gives a sweet yet disturbing performance as Hakan—the protector and blood provider for a young vampire named Eli. Turned way too young, Eli is cursed with being a child forever. Hakan is loyal to the point where he would rather disfigure himself than be captured for fear of endangering Eli. He meets a tragic end and makes the ultimate sacrifice. That sacrifice is made all the more tragic when it becomes clear that Eli has found Hakan’s replacement in a young boy named Oskar.
Hakan is a stand-in for Renfield in Let the Right One In, albeit one that shows the curse of caring for the undead without getting any real love back. In Lindqvist’s novel, Hakan is a much more menacing character. But he remains a loyal, yet severely damaged, servant. (I’m going to go cry now.)
Billy Cole in Fright Night
Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark) is the ultimate ’80s jock in Tom Holland’s Fright Night. He takes immense joy from bullying and tormenting his poor neighbor, Charley (William Ragsdale). And he skulks around Jerry Dandridge’s (Chris Sarandon) mansion like it’s a frat house. Billy is the bulletproof bodyguard version of Renfield. He looks legitimately shocked when Charley impales him in the heart, like he had no idea that his body would melt into a puddle of gross, gelatinous goop. In a perfect world, Cole and Ragsdale would have made a prequel together about them gallivanting around the country causing torment together.
Nanook in The Lost Boys
Surely, the sales of Alaskan Malamute’s skyrocketed after Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys stole The Monster Squad‘s thunder at the box office in the summer of 1987. I’m not sure how many times Nanook saves Sam’s (Corey Haim) life over the course of this film. But it’s a lot. Nanook’s first and most memorable hero moment comes when Sam is too busy singing “Ain’t Got No Home” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry to notice that his big brother Micheal (Jason Patric) is creeping up the staircase. Of course, Nanook saves the day and lives to have another action scene involving a bathtub later on. Personally, and I can’t be alone in this, I’d rather have a sidekick Nanook than a Renfield any day of the week.
Guillermo in What We Do in the Shadows
With Renfield waiting in the wings, Guillermo in What We Do in the Shadows currently resides in the top spot for devoted vampire sidekicks. Harvey Guillén is so brilliant in the role that he almost outshines the démodé, out-of-style bloodsuckers he protects. Guillermo’s still crushing on Nandor (Kayvan Novak) but he’s not afraid to demand that he be turned from a familiar to a creature of the night. To that end, Guillermo is not too far off from where we find Nicholas Hoult’s Renfield. They’re both tired of being taken advantage of. Both characters deserve some respect and a little appreciation. Hopefully, Hoult’s Renfield will come out victorious. But, admittedly, I’d rather have Guillermo stay a familiar forever.
Renfield is in theaters now.