Arts & Entertainment

Review: ‘Renfield’ brings the violence and the laughs

Nicolas Cage is hammy and hilarious as Dracula– what more could you want?

Video by Universal Pictures | “Renfield” Official Trailer

“Renfield,” directed by Chris McKay, follows Dracula’s pitiful familiar Renfield, who must do his bidding. Renfield begins to tire of Dracula’s demands, and in the present day, he seeks out help from a narcissistic partner support group. However, things begin to take a turn for the worse when Dracula’s orders become hard to ignore and a New Orleans crime family is suddenly after him too. Renfield must defend his new life– and his new friends– with the help from a cop who wants to take down the crime family. 

The plot is thin and the idea is not particularly original. There are ample plot holes you can sink your teeth into. After the film, my fiance and I joked about some of the plot holes and questioned why some things were included, but the ultimate takeaway was that the movie was a good time. It occasionally references the old black and white Dracula film that starred Bela Lugosi, and the homage feels genuine rather than cheap. 

The villains are hilarious and so hammy that it never stops being entertaining. Shohreh Aghdashloo as the intimidating crime boss is smooth and chilling. Ben Schwartz, playing her naive and puffed-up son, is funny and obnoxious in the best way. He tends to always play a variation of the same egotistical maniac, but it works. 

Now, of course, the main draw of the film is Nicolas Cage. The choice to cast him as Dracula is ridiculous and genius. He fully commits to the goofiness of the role, and his performance is what drives the film. He is never taking himself seriously, and it adds to the overall tone of the movie. Cage is clearly having fun in his bedazzled black suits and capes, and it makes the movie more fun as a result– though he does have moments where he struggles to speak through his pointy teeth. 

Nicolas Hoult is charming and sweet as the anti-hero, though it seems he may be stuck in this type of role (“Warm Bodies” was a very similar situation for him). Hoult deserves to break out of this archetype he’s found himself in, but it’s understandable why he was chosen. Renfield needed to be a sympathetic and likable character. Awkwafina as Renfield’s newfound cop friend is a tad awkward, and perhaps slightly miscast for a mundane part like this, but it isn’t distracting. 

The film is cartoonishly gory and the violence is often creative, which helped keep it interesting. It likely would have fallen flat had it been cut down to a PG-13 rating. Funnily enough, while the violence is outrageous, the characters get very little blood on them throughout. 

“Renfield” is not some incredibly unique, revolutionary film. It has some cliché moments and it verges on having too many quips. But, the audience was engaged the whole time, reacting happily to jokes and gore. 

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Fangs