One of Corner of Film’s most anticipated movies of 2023, Renfield follows Dracula’s eponymous assistant as he undergoes a crisis of conscience. After almost a century of service to the infamous Count Dracula, the vampiric familiar finds himself unhappy with his existence. While striving to get away from his nightmarish boss, he becomes entangled in a web of crime and corruption.
Renfield stars Nicholas Hoult as Dracula’s titular lackey, Nicolas Cage as the Count himself, and Awkwafina as Rebecca Quincy, a police officer dedicated to fighting crime and corruption in New Orleans. Ben Schwartz also appears as Teddy Lobo, a lieutenant of a local crime family who teams up with Dracula, with Shohreh Aghdashloo appearing as Lobo’s mother and boss. From a story by Robert Kirkman and directed by Chris McKay, Renfield‘s pedigree in both horror and comedy is plain to see.
Such a heavy blend of genres isn’t always easy to pull off. However, Renfield‘s cast features a balance of comic actors and more serious ones. Hoult and Cage provide the horror-drama, while Awkwafina and Schwartz provide the comedy. It makes for a sensible balance, and that’s ultimately what helps Renfield really come to life.
Renfield Is Consistent & Deceptively Deep, But Doesn’t Shine As It Should
With a carefully-chosen and talented cast, the film manages to balance its genres remarkably well. In doing so, it manages to keep its tone consistently light in spite of its bloody violence and vampiric premise. On the surface, it’s a film that’s a lot of fun, but rarely funny – and that’s okay.
However, there is an interesting theme throughout the film that makes it far deeper than one might expect. As Renfield attempts to get out from under Dracula, he attends a support group for people in codependent relationships. Though it’s gently played for laughs at times, Renfield’s journey to escape the torment of his master appears to be an allegory for fleeing an abusive relationship. It’s subtly poetic, as the familiar strives to find himself outside of his relationship with Dracula, and realizes he’s far more powerful than he believes himself to be.
Renfield‘s action sequences are predictably gory and exciting, but some of the effects look entirely unconvincing. Despite a unique premise and an unexpectedly sweet story, it’s a film that doesn’t really stand out. For the most part, it plays it safe, which is a touch disappointing.
Overall, it’s a lot of fun. Both Hoult and Cage play their parts to perfection, bringing comedic flair to their seriously horrifying and deceptively realistic dynamic. As bizarre as it might sound, Renfield is something of a feel-good film – though its story feels like a safe bet, it’s emotionally touching in all the right ways.
Summary: Renfield delivers comedy above horror, but also carries an unexpectedly powerful message. Its cheesy and bloody action is easy and entertaining viewing, even if it’s ultimately lacking in any real bite.
Highlight: Nicolas Cage is brilliantly evil and quietly terrifying as Dracula, and the chemistry between Cage and Hoult lends the film a quiet depth.