If not for a trademark over-the-top Nicolas Cage performance and a truly inspired fight scene in an apartment complex, “Renfield” would be a total disaster of a movie. It’s certainly not any good and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and the real horror of it all is the way director Chris McKay blows what should have been a slam-dunk premise.
Set in present day, Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) is the tortured, loyal assistant to Dracula (Cage). He’s served his master for decades, taking care of everything from getting his cape dry cleaned to procuring fresh prey for dinner. After centuries of servitude, Renfield is finally ready to move on and create a life of his own.
Although it is mostly dead in the water, the film’s pacing never feels slow. There’s plenty of entertainment, it’s just not fun enough, outrageous enough, nor twisted enough. The tone is both tongue-in-cheek and sincere, which is not cohesive as a whole. There’s a lot of action that means nothing, and characters like Awkwafina‘s police officer that are bland and forgettable.
The side plots about a crime family with a ruthless boss (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her son (Ben Schwartz) that wants Renfield dead is half-baked, and the funny group therapy bits where Dracula’s assistant seeks help for co-dependency and dealing with his raging narcissist of a boss falls flat. The ideas all sound so good on paper, but are poorly executed across the board. That’s why the movie feels so underwhelming.
Cage is by far the best part of this mess, and he is an actor who is born to play Dracula. He hams it up in every scene, and his unhinged take is genuinely scary but also goofy. His manic line delivery and unhinged inflection of such dialogue gems like “Hail Satan” is absolute bliss.
The blood and gore is over-the-top and mostly used in a humorous manner, but this isn’t for the squeamish. There is graphic throat ripping, spurting blood, and abdomens slit open with internal organs visibly spilling out. McKay doesn’t shy away from the violence (and the makeup and effects are really great), which should at least delight horror fans.
With such a great idea for story, it’s a bummer that “Renfield” is disappointing in nearly every way imaginable. You’ll find yourself mourning what it could have been.
By: Louisa Moore