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‘Renfield’ was a bloody good time

| Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Maria Dach | The Observer

I do mean bloody. Seriously, there was a truly impressive amount of gore in this movie: A man gets his arms ripped off and those severed arms are used to kill multiple men-level of gore. There’s also disembowelment, faces ripped off, severed heads, body cavity explosions and bloodsucking(duh). However, it’s so utterly cartoonish that it works to inspire laughs and gasps in equal measure. “Renfield” pulls off a twisted comedy thriller that highlights great performances by Nicholas Hoult and Nicholas Cage even when the plot admittedly stretches thin as the movie goes on. 

“Renfield” sheds new light on the typical Dracula story that highlights the relationship between Dracula and his underling Renfield. However, in this retelling, the main character is the harried assistant of Dracula as he labors to provide his master with fresh victims every day to bring Dracula back to full power. He joins a 12-step self-help group for people in codependent relationships and starts to regain his independence. Along the way, he gets caught up in trouble with a mob family that controls the city, starts a budding romance with a no-nonsense police officer and engages in many supernaturally-powered fight scenes. Nicholas Hoult stars as Renfield and brings this terribly charming awkward energy to the role that is juxtaposed whenever he is called to fight in a truly vicious manner against the bad guys. Awkwafina plays Rebecca, a good cop in a corrupt city who’s trying to avenge her father’s death. While she’s got great chemistry with Hoult, her backstory and subplot are rather thin and boring when compared to the zany gothic fun of Renfield and Dracula. Ben Schwartz’s role as Teddy Lobo, the great and spoiled mob son of a cartel boss, is similarly underdeveloped. 

Now, most of the reason I went to see this movie was to see Nicolas Cage as the Prince of Darkness. Suffice it to say, he did not disappoint. He brought exactly the over-the-top energy you want from Nicholas Cage. The whole time, he’s either in various stages of slimy decay as he’s growing his strength or a very 50s and 60s style Bela Lugosi-esque vampire complete with a high collar and slicked-back hair. I must mention the practical effects team on the very impressive transformation of Dracula to full health as well as the various injuries that occur during the film. Once he’s in true debonair style, Nicholas Cage really sank his teeth into this role (pun intended). Switching back and forth from reveling in his bloodlust to being the charming and manipulative Dracula we know and love, he is so gleefully vicious and consistently entertaining throughout the whole film. He also plays with many meta moments of poking fun at vampire lore set in a modern world. I loved moments where he appears in Renfield’s apartment because of a poorly phrased welcome mat that says “Come on in.”

The film is strongest in its humor, especially in its somewhat boring modernization of supernatural figures. The film opens up with a self-help meeting with Renfield explaining that he’s trying to get away from his narcissistic boss. Later on, he uses one of his personal empowerment books titled “How to Deal with a Narcissist” to try to resist Dracula’s thrall. The film does create some conversation around codependency and actual self-improvement, but it’s not enough to pad out the plot line for the movie. All in all, “Renfield” was a really entertaining and humorous movie. While it does suffer from a weakness in plot, Nicholas Cage was too fun to watch for me not to recommend a nocturnal viewing.

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