Review: ‘Renfield’ Attempts To Escape The Fangs Of An Abusive Relationship
Irish author Bram Stoker created a new horror subgenre by introducing “Dracula” in the late 1800s. Since then, several incarnations have made their way into pop culture, with actor Bela Lugosi at the top of everyone’s list as one of the best portrayals of the titular character. R.M. Renfield has been notable over the years as Dracula’s servant and familiar. Now, the new comedy horror movie “Renfield” seeks to give the secondary character some much-needed time in the spotlight.
Directed by Chris McKay from a story by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ridley, “Renfield” stars Nicholas Hoult as R.M. Renfield, the long-suffering and wickedly handsome servant to Count Dracula. Nicholas Cage embodies the legendary Transylvanian vampire as the two eternally supernatural beings take up residence in the Big Easy, New Orleans. The film opens with Renfield attending a support group for victims of emotionally abusive relationships, as he believes his undead boss suffers from narcissism.
You see, Renfield doesn’t have a life outside of Dracula. He spends daylight hours looking for innocent victims to be killed and eaten by his master so the decrepit monster can gain strength for world domination. However, the miserable lackey finds a new lease on life after meeting Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), a traffic cop who stumbles upon a crime syndicate. Together, the two unlikely heroes attempt to bring down a drug empire led by a mother-son duo (Shohreh Aghdashloo and Ben Schwartz). However, can Renfield clean up his act and escape Dracula’s clutches in order to save his new home and love interest?
“Renfield” is chock full of hilarious quips and gory fights that rival the unnecessary violence of “Cocaine Bear” from earlier this year. Cage is at his utmost Cage-ness as Dracula, playing up the famed vampire cliches but with a modern twist. He is tailor-made for the farcical role, taking a menacing character and making him amusing. But something is lacking in the movie when Cage is not onscreen, as Aghdashloo and Schwartz are not believable criminal characters in this flick to make their villainous personas worthwhile.
The absence of Cage’s character for half the movie also doesn’t make up for the insufficient chemistry between Hoult and Awkwafina. Each actor does their best to frantically stand out, especially during the many contrived fight sequences. With every character seemingly disheveled for most of the movie and presented with unflattering teal lighting on their faces, their partnership is simply unconvincing. By the time the epic climax arrives, the idea of escaping a destructive relationship starts to feel forced amongst all of the police corruption, missing persons, betrayal, and other tropes thrown in for good measure.
But, for all its faults, “Renfield” is a bloody good time at the movies. Nicholas Hoult and Nicholas Cage are fantastic when they share scenes together, complimented by stunning visual effects and a hilarious script. When Renfield chooses to strike out on his own, save people instead of murdering them, and decides to comb his hair…he is unstoppable. The two Nicks play off one another well in a silly and entertaining fashion. As the support group leader, Brandon Scott Jones is a standout, and one could argue that the actor should see more screen time in future projects.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟