Renfield is a modern horror comedy, providing a comically gory, but enjoyable twist on the old tale of Dracula, starring Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, and Nicolas Cage as the legendary vampire.
When I first heard about the film and saw that Nicolas Cage is set to play an arrogant, evil, unhinged vampire count, I was immediately intrigued. After all, is there a better character to play a “batshit” crazy villain than a guy who gets in a tussle with Motley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil on the streets of Vegas in broad daylight, files for a divorce four days after getting married, and gets tossed out of an upscale restaurant for trying to do a reenaction of his performance in “Leaving Las Vegas?” Jokes aside, Cage is a very talented Oscar-winning actor, and it is good to see him come back from the direct-to-video hell some actors tend to get stuck in for the latter half of their careers, and this time, the role of Dracula is just a perfect fit for him. However, is it enough to make a great, entertaining comedy horror film? Well, almost…
Directed by Chris McKay of “Robot Chicken” and “The Lego Movie” fame, and written by Ryan Ridley and Robert Kirkman, “Renfield” tells the story of Dracula’s servant, played by Nicholas Hoult, finally realizing that his boss is using him to commit nefarious deeds and deciding to finally move on after a brave New Orleans policewoman called Rebecca (Awkwafina) inspires him to stand up for himself in the face of adversity. The plot then thickens, as Dracula finds an unlikely ally to replace Renfield and Rebecca finds out that she can barely trust anyone on the police force, and the film’s two heroes have to work together to save the city from the reign of terror the evil vampire seeks to impose on it.
As a horror comedy, the film definitely delivers on the gore, but in a bizarrely funny way, with limbs being used as weapons sometimes, and Dracula ripping people apart more brutally than almost anything I’ve seen since the shotgun in the old videogame Postal 2. In terms of humor, it would be a lie to say the film did not make me laugh quite a few times, but sometimes the jokes fall a bit flat. Cage is not the guilty party here, somehow his mere appearance on the screen was enough to make the audience giggle. Hoult as Renfield also does a solid job, especially when he tries to use a self-help book as a sort of a bible to defend against his narcissistic boss. Other highlights include the support group scenes, where the members just don’t realize just how bad Renfield’s “boss” is until it’s way too late.
Awkwafina also manages to get off a zinger or two, but her tough, swear-happy police officer character does get a tiny bit stale by the end of the film. The rest of the police force feels like a parody of itself, even for a comedy like this, being cartoonishly corrupt with barely any redeeming qualities. The local mafia queen, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, is an interesting character, however her son, Teddy (Ben Schwartz) is definitely more on the annoying than the funny side.
Running for just about 93 minutes, the movie is not affected by the 2020s Hollywood trend of bloating up running times as much as possible, and this help the pacing immensely. Just when “Renfield” seems like it’s going to slow down too much, the action continues. Also, as far as the setting goes, New Orleans was a pretty good choice, providing a good blend of modern, and dark-mystic places.
With a bit more polishing, “Renfield” had the potential to be one of the best films of the year, but it still turned out to be an enjoyable, blood-soaked mixture of horror and comedy, not only for the diehard fans of Nicolas Cage.
Cover photo by Universal Studios
Running for just about 93 minutes, the movie is not affected by the 2020s Hollywood trend of bloating up running times as much as possible, and this help the pacing immensely. Just when Renfield seems like it’s going to slow down too much, the action continues. Also, as far as the setting goes, New Orleans was a pretty good choice, providing a good blend of modern, and dark-mystic places.