After years of servitude to his master, Count Dracula, long-suffering manservant, Renfield, has found himself going through the motions. Every once in a while, someone will attack Dracula, and bring him almost to the brink of death, and then after they fail, Renfield will have to relocate with the Count in order to buy him time to revive.
Following their most recent attack, Renfield and Dracula have moved to New Orleans, and while Dracula recuperates, Renfield goes in search of victims that he can take home to the count to feast on. The more innocent the victim, the quicker Dracula’s recovery will be, and the faster he will be back to full health.
But with Renfield not very keen on using innocent people as vampire fodder, he comes up with a new plan. Joining a local support group for people in co-dependent relationships, Renfield is able to hear stories about abusive partners, who he then tracks down to turn into his next victims.
However, after locating one such victim, Renfield soon finds himself crossing paths with a drug dealer. This in turn leads to another altercation, in which Renfield chooses to help a police officer in desperate need.
After performing this good deed, Renfield is labelled a ‘hero’, which makes him rethink his role as Dracula’s slave. But while Renfield might be ready to step out of Drac’s shadow and become a better person, the Prince of Darkness is not so keen to say goodbye to his best employee.
Directed by Chris McKay and based on characters taken from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Renfield is a supernatural, action-comedy horror, starring Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina, and Ben Schwartz. The movie is new to UK and US cinemas and is a rollicking good horror romp, packed with blood, gore, plenty of action, and lots of laughs.
Renfield is filled to the brim with scenes of black comedy, is loaded with fun set pieces, and packs a punch in the action department. It also never takes itself too seriously, it provides its cast with ample room to camp things up when necessary, and it tells a delightful little story.
Perhaps most important of all, Renfield finds a way to re-package the Dracula mythology for a new audience. It takes characters and ideas that we are all familiar with, gives them a bit of a dust off, and serves them back up in a way that re-energises this particular corner of the horror genre.
Taking the lead in the film is Nicholas Hoult, who is not only tasked with driving this movie as Renfield, but also has to balance a number of different character traits and personality shifts. One minute Renfield is slightly snivelling, next he’s quite comical, and then it’s not long before he’s socking it to bad guys and high-kicking his way around the screen.
One of Renfield’s key attributes is that if he ingests bugs, he suddenly develops super human abilities. This gives him the power to rip the arms of any unsuspecting foes, and makes him somewhat of a super hero.
This little skillset allows the film to border comic book territory, but also ensures that Hoult doesn’t spend the majority of the movie downtrodden and downbeat. Instead, he has the ability to shift his performance around a little, moving from victim to hero, and this makes him interesting to watch.
And speaking of actors who are interesting to watch: Step forward Nicolas Cage. The actor, known for his zany (and sometimes odd) performances, is truly superb in the role of Dracula, hamming it up with gusto.
This is a supporting role for the actor, so Cage doesn’t get a great deal of screentime, but he makes the most of every frame he is in. He chews up the scenery with the best-looking fake teeth I’ve seen in a while, and has an absolute ball playing the gothic villain.
Whether he’s plastered under prosthetics, or completely awash with make-up, Cage is living and breathing the part of Dracula. This is arguably one of his best on screen roles for some time, and he really goes to town on it.
Outside of Hoult and Cage, Awkwafina brings some laughs playing the role of Renfield’s sort-of love interest, police officer Rebecca Quincy, and Ben Schwartz is equally humorous as dumb drug dealer, ‘Teddy’ Lobo. The pair don’t get to have quite as much fun as Hoult and Cage, but they play their parts well and bring a human element to the story.
With regards to the story, Renfield features a screenplay by Ryan Ridley, which is based on a story by Robert Kirkman. Kirkman is a well-known comic book writer, screenwriter and producer, but is perhaps best known for being the co-creator of The Walking Dead.
Those who are familiar with his work will definitely see his mark on this picture. Renfield is a horror story about monsters, yet it maintains its humanity throughout, and this is something which definitely feels like a Kirkman story.
OK, so it’s not the strongest story going, but it is perfectly serviceable. The film gets the characters from A to B to C, while allowing for plenty of nonsense in between and it has its heart in exactly the right place.
While not 100% perfect, due to a couple of saggy scenes here and there, Renfield is very enjoyable stuff. The film balances its horror, comedy, and action very well, and is backed by a couple of great performances.
I expect Renfield will delight those who just want some daft fun, and will certainly entertain those looking for escapism. I also expect it will do well for the late-night horror crowd, who will have a blast with all the blood splatter and disembowelling.
If you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into this weekend, then Renfield could be for you. The movie opens at your local cinema today.
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