Movie Review: Renfield
I must admit, I went into Renfield not overly excited. I remember not being particularly inspired by the trailer, which sold the movie as a fairly by-the-numbers modern retelling of the classic Dracula story. I went in to see it solely for one thing only: Nicholass Cage’s performance as the famous vampire. After a rather brisk 90 minutes, I walked out pleasantly surprised.
Renfield is a pretty interesting mash of genres that also manages to be a study in breaking up a century-old co-dependent relationship. Most of all, though, it’s powered by two great performances
from its leads, Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult. Nicholas Cage has made a name for himself off
the intensity and, at times, the eccentricity of his roles. Many of his performances are imbued
with feral sincerity, and in Reinfeld, he is cast perfectly as Dracula.
Whether he is sneering under piles of prosthetics, roaring or slithering across the screen, Cage is incredible to watch. Even though he gets plenty of time, It’s a bit of a pity we don’t see him more than we do in the film. (Renfield 2, anyone?) The flick instead focuses on Renfield, racula’s familiar (a demon supposedly attending and obeying a vampire.), reimagined as a hard-done by millennial terrorized by his narcissistic boss.
Nicholas Hoult is great as well, bringing to the fore the self-effacing nature that 90 years in a massively unbalanced relationship will mould anyone into. The film shows his life being little more than scouting out locations for his master to feed, fighting against the forces of good that try to stop them, losing and starting the whole cycle again, all for the price of a sliver of Dracula’s power.
After his latest loss, his master goes into hiding, and Renfield finds a therapy group for people in relationships with narcissists. Hilarity ensues. What I liked most about the plot was the winking, not overly self-serious tone it took with the material. There were more jokes than I was expecting, and the film was definitely better for it.
The horror-comedy vibe of the A-plot of the film is accentuated with quite a few action scenes, resulting from a rather adventurous genre blend. About halfway through the movie, a police-gang plot line featuring Awkwafina develops, leading to a few more (of course welcome) hijinks than I expected going in.
The film doesn’t hold back on the gore either, with literal heads rolling and arm dismemberments
as part of the highly stylized action. I also appreciated Hoult doing his stunts; the smoothness
of the cuts definitely added to the experience.
Overall, Renfield was an unexpected gem. Brisk, funny in spurts (heh) and smarter than it looks on the surface. It won’t change your life, but it’s a bloody good time.
Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.