‘Renfield’ - a fresh take on Dracula
By Jack McLaughlin
Dracula is a character that has been adapted many times over many films, but never in a story quite like “Renfield.”
Viewers follow not Dracula, but rather his assistant Renfield (Nicholas Hoult). The titular protagonist is growing increasingly tired of his servitude to his overbearing and demanding boss, so he looks to group therapy as a way to better understand his situation and get out of his toxic work relationship.
On his quest to be free from Dracula, Renfield becomes intertwined with police officer Rebecca (Awkwafina), and they work together to bring down a crime family while also dealing with Renfield’s malicious boss.
The biggest strength of “Renfield” is the writing and performances behind it. This is definitely not a horror movie like some may expect - rather it’s an action comedy that has the aesthetics of something much spookier than it actually is.
In terms of a comedy, this film excels. Most of the performances are delightful and it’s great to see an actor like Nicholas Hoult be able to show off his more comedic side.
Awkwafina, like most roles she takes on, is also a wonderful comedic addition while also having a strong motive to be a part of the story. Her line delivery and comedic timing is amazing, and will make certain moments stand out as highlights.
But, to the surprise of no one, the best performance in “Renfield” is Nicolas Cage as Dracula. His inclusion to the story is the biggest win and loss of the movie, because they simply don’t use him enough.
This film is mostly about Renfield and the main plot involving the crime family, and this unfortunately doesn’t include Dracula that much. He gets to shine at the beginning and end mostly, with some great moments sprinkled throughout.
As a fan of the actor, it was disappointing to see him used so sparingly because this film - like all films - can benefit from more Nic Cage.
The antagonist that we get alongside Dracula, the head of the crime family played by Ben Schwartz, serves that part of the film fine. He doesn’t exactly stand out and absolutely pales in comparison to Cage.
So if the main story isn’t fully grabbing your attention, it can be hard to enjoy parts of this movie, especially with how heavily advertised Cage’s inclusion was.
While Cage’s absence from most of this story is felt considerably, Renfield and Rebecca’s chemistry together is sufficient enough to carry viewers to the more entertaining pieces of the story.
The partnership they form is bizarre at first, but their teamwork is fun to watch evolve in such a short amount of time. Their action scenes together blend different types of fighting which makes the individuals both equally interesting to watch fight alongside each other.
Once Dracula is more involved toward the end, that’s when the film gets way more fun. The ridiculous overly-violent moments both he and Renfield participate in were fantastic bits of action. These types of scenes aren’t frequent, but they’re used enough to where it doesn’t get tiring.
Visually, this film has such a unique style. Many of the scenes have a distinct use of blues and oranges that make the New Orleans setting stand out and the darker lighting in many of these scenes helps sell the horror aesthetic that it’s striving for.
The camera work can be inconsistent, some of the action scenes have a jarring fast motion that can be distracting but other than that it’s fairly standard.
The effects are also surprisingly good considering the low budget it has. The blood during action scenes has a bright, almost cartoonish, style. Given how much of it you see, it’s nice to see a unique visual flair dedicated to it.
“Renfield” was not what I was expecting going in, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it a lot. It has noticeable weak points, but it will satisfy the undying desire to see Nicolas Cage do anything.
B: Not exactly as advertised