‘Renfield’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Renfield is a horror-comedy action film directed and produced by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) from a screenplay written by Ryan Ridley (Invincible). Featuring Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, and Shohreh Aghdashloo; the film is based on characters from the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. The story follows Dracula’s assistant Robert Montague Renfield as he tries to get out of what he considers an abusive relationship with the Dark Lord.

The film opens with narration from Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult). While sitting in a self-help group he tells the audience about how he wasn’t always so bad and considers himself to be in a toxic relationship. In his youth, he traveled to Transylvania to close a real estate deal with Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage) that would hopefully make him and his family rich. Unfortunately, he is coerced into becoming Dracula’s familiar. In exchange for care and people to feed on Renfield is given immortality and a portion of the vampire’s power through the consumption of various insects.

During an attack from a priest and a vampire hunter Dracula is almost defeated. When Renfield enters the room he is told he can finally be free from servitude. Dracula however convinces him that he will be locked up for his crimes which leads Renfield to free the Dark Lord who proceeds to murder his assailants. Dracula is however brutally burned when a curtain falls and exposes him to sunlight leaving Renfield to nurse him back to full power.

I am a big fan of horror and comedy. The two genres make me laugh in different ways. I feel we do not get enough horror comedies these days and I am glad to see it making a comeback. Dracula has been in the cultural zeitgeist ever since Bram Stoker’s acclaimed novel was released. We have had tons of iterations of the character in film, television, video games, and even comic books. From Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – based on the aforementioned novel – to Dracula 2000 (2000) to Dracula Untold (2014), most adaptations have been pretty good; interpreting the character in unique ways, and changing the lore and backstory of the demonic vampire. With film studios itching to suck everything possible idea from whatever IP they own and in an age where a Joker movie without Batman can make $1 billion at the box office; a movie based on Renfield makes logical sense.

Chris McKay is a great director and knows how to handle comedy and action. Ridley basing the movie around a toxic relationship is the chef’s kiss that makes this idea work and McKay brings that to life. Nicholas Hoult is great as Renfield. You truly believe him when he states that he is in a toxic relationship with Dracula. The scenes where Renfield talks about his emotions are comedic gold. His flowering relationship with aggressive traffic cop Rebecca (Awkwafina) is adorable. They have good chemistry that never quite becomes a romance, but feels like the start of something. Nicolas Cage once again gives 100% of his ability in the role of Dracula. He looks like he’s having a good time and plays the evil vampire as more of a manipulative boss that is also a bloodthirsty maniac. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing an origin story for the character played by a de-aged Cage.

The way McKay handles the horror in this movie is over the top. Blood splatters and bones break with every kill. There are more fatalities and x-ray moves in this movie than there were in Mortal Kombat (2021). At one point a guy’s arms are ripped off and used as javelins to kill another guy. The fight scenes are very reminiscent of a superhero film, but that’s come to be expected these days. The more genres you mix the more viewers studios can get into the theater. The effects are a mixed bag with the practical effects looking great. Dracula’s mutilated healing face is quite horrifying to look at while most of the blood shown looks more like ketchup.

The story is fun, but quite a few plot threads require the suspension of belief. Such as the blatant corruption of the police force and nobody trying to kill the one good cop in the city. By the end, you wonder why Dracula only has one familiar when he can clearly raise an army if needed. The lack of other vampires and supernatural creatures raises a few questions about where they are in this world. Also, not making the Lobos gang werewolves was a missed opportunity in my humble opinion

Overall, this is an over-the-top horror comedy that is bound to make you laugh out loud. The story is fun and the action is violent and bloody. I give Renfield a Decent 7/10. I feel this movie may have done better with an October release as the spring doesn’t quite fit the vibe this film is giving off.

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