Rob Reviews "Renfield"
In doing my research to review Renfield the day after the screening, I found out that Nicholas Cage has said for some time that there are three roles he has always wanted to play: Superman (which got close, and MAN I’m glad THAT didn’t happen… I’ve seen the documentary), Captain Nemo (kind of here for that), and Dracula. He can now check that last one off the list, and I am for one glad he has been able to.
This particular tale focuses on the title character (played by Nicholas Hoult) who is Dracula’s “familiar,” meaning he is the famed vampire’s assistant. His job duties include handling personal business during the day, making sure his basic needs are met, and oh yeah… bringing him victims to help keep him young. He also gets the ability to take insects’ life forces to enhance his abilities and stays young with Dracula, which he has been doing for decades. In present day, they live in an abandoned hospital in New Orleans as Renfield starts to have regrets about his job as he gets tangled up with a local mob family whose idiot son (Ben Schwartz) almost ruins the family business due to a mishap with local cop Rebecca (Awkwafina). Renfield deals with all of this while going to a local support group for people who find themselves to be co-dependent.
Yeah. There’s a LOT going on here, and it’s all condensed to just over an hour and a half. And that’s a GOOD thing.
The man behind The Walking Dead in Robert Kirkman is both a producer and the man whose idea was turned into a script that takes what could be a very dark tale and turns it into a hilarious ride with over-the-top action and violence that even had this guy who actively avoids horror films laughing and smiling all the way through. Even though he is not the central character here, the only way to describe Cage’s performance as Dracula is simply “full Cage,” and again, that is a GOOD thing. He puts everything into a performance that invokes a number of portrayals of Vlad the Impaler while making it his own. There is even a great homage to the original 1931 film that threads itself all the way to the final frame (literally) that had our audience clapping and laughing every time it came up.
Hoult holds his own as Renfield, showing a man who has lived WAY longer than he wanted to due to his submissiveness to the monster he has pledged to serve and wanting to break free from it. His chemistry with Awkwafina is also good with her work improving more and more with each role she takes. I wish her character was written a bit more thoroughly (which if there is any criticism, it would be that the script does get a bit uneven in its pacing in a few places, but that did not take away from my enjoyment), but it all works out nicely.
If you feel about horror films like I do, don’t let that keep you from Renfield. There are some that will talk about gore, but it is done in a way that does not make it horrifying (pun intended) but enhances a story that has no desire to take itself seriously so it’s actors can simply have fun with the vampire lore in a way that others have not previously been able to. Granted, I would have liked to see this film get a fall release, but hopefully there will be theaters that will do special showings of this in the Halloween season to remind audiences of its greatness.