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‘Renfield’ review

Vampire movies and TV shows have always held a special place at the dark heart of mass entertainment. Of late, Hollywood has earnestly run with the teen-angst angle of vampires with the likes of Twilight and The Vampire Diaries taking centre stage. Fresh takes and new ideas utilising the prince of darkness are commonplace, and now this movie comes along with a hilarious dark comedy focusing on the historic struggles of Dracula’s faithful old servant Renfield. The end result is a macabre mash-up of genres that results in copious amounts of blood, in a light but nevertheless entertaining romp.

Fed up with his life-sentence of servitude, Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) ends up getting a fresh outlook on life after inadvertently saving some people from imminent death. However, any plans he has to escape from his current situation won’t go down too well with his master – Dracula (Nicolas Cage). Throw in a warring criminal gang looking to recoup some stolen drugs led by the hapless Tedward Lobo (Ben Schwartz), and Rebecca (Awkwafina), a determined cop looking for justice, and you have a bloody collision course all set – with Dracula at the centre of it all.

The success of the film lies squarely with its two leads. Nicolas Cage was born to play Dracula (some would even suggest he is an actual vampire), so you know you are going to be very entertained by his performance. He brings his usual brand of Cage-coolness to the table, playing Drac with just a hint of Vegas Elvis (in a good way), whilst always being quite scary. Kudos to the make-up team on ‘Renfield’ because they have done amazing work here, from Cage’s decrepid shrivelled vampire to the jewellery-wearing, top hat sporting, velvet suited-and-booted Count we all love. Cage clearly had lots of fun making this film.

I’m a big fan of Nicholas Hoult, and he brings his unmistakable charm and affability to the role of Renfield that’s delightful to watch. He handles the comedic moments with pitch-perfect sincerity and the action with a deft touch. He and Cage share a superb dynamic and ooze chemistry whenever they are onscreen together. It makes you wish that they actually had more scenes together, because I was slightly disappointed that the movie doesn’t explore their story in enough detail, opting instead for R-rated gore gags to do all the heavy lifting.

‘Renfield’ has a great ensemble including ‘Parks and Recreation’ MVP (Jean-Ralphio himself) Ben Schwartz, who steals all of his scenes as Tedward, the incompetent mommas-boy looking to take more control of his family’s criminal empire. Schwartz is a great comedian, and his comic timing is superb. He has great exchanges with Hoult and Awkwafina, and is always entertaining to watch. Awkwafina is good as the cop determined to bring the criminals to justice, but the relationship angle between Rebecca and Renfield could (and should) have been explored much more. Renfield’s toxic relationship support group are all very funny too, with Brandon Scott Jones quite excellent as the group councillor Mark.

And that leads to ‘Renfield’s biggest mistake. It relies far too heavily on the crime syndicate storyline, to the point where this felt like a police story with a few bits of horror thrown in. ‘Renfield’ does a remarkable job in setting the scene for the character of Dracula, using scene-for-scene homages to the classic era of Universal Monsters, and of its biggest star Bela Lugosi. The black and white shot clips are so good, and just makes the audience wish that the filmmakers had just made that as the whole film instead. Cage loves these scenes – you can tell – and for my money Universal are sitting on an untapped money tree with this concept. Just recreate the classic movies with Cage – it’s a sure-fire route to box office success.

So with that missed opportunity constantly being revisited in clever flashback scenes and final end credit graphics that are masterfully creepy (more so than the film), ‘Renfield’ is fun, but ultimately doesn’t live up to its massive potential. There’s so much to explore, that I hope Cage comes back for more. With a classic angle, this could be the real resurrection that the Universal Monsters back catalogue has so desperately craved for decades. But as it is, ‘Renfield’ has laughs aplenty, is an enjoyable watch and thanks to its star, is destined to be yet another Cage cult classic.

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Brandon Scott Jones, Shohreh Aghdashloo Director: Chris McKay Writer: Ryan Ridley, Robert Kirkman Certificate: 15 Duration: 93 mins Released by: Universal Release date: 14th April 2023

Jason Palmer
Jason Palmerhttp://www.entertainment-focus.com
Jason is a film contributor for Entertainment Focus (EF) bringing you the latest news and reviews from the movie world.

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Vampire movies and TV shows have always held a special place at the dark heart of mass entertainment. Of late, Hollywood has earnestly run with the teen-angst angle of vampires with the likes of Twilight and The Vampire Diaries taking centre stage. Fresh takes...'Renfield' review