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Renfield (15)

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Ben Schwartz, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Genre: Comedy
Author(s): Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ridley
Director: Chris McKay
Release Date: 14/04/2023
Running Time: 93mins
Country: US
Year: 2023

Dracula and his long-suffering but faithful servant Renfield have taken up residence in New Orleans, a city steeped in superstition. Renfield is wearily resigned to serving his demented master for hundreds of years, trapped in an unhealthy and abusive relationship that demands he procure fresh victims. When Renfield decides that he need to sever ties to Dracula and reclaim some semblance of a life, the violent tug of war between master and minion escalates wildly out of control.


LondonNet Film Review

Renfield (15) Film Review from LondonNet

If you’re about to throw a self-pity party then lower the bunting for a moment and spare a thought for Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult). His life truly sucks – literally, when you reflect that his manipulative master is Dracula (Nicolas Cage). For more than 100 years, Renfield has been compelled to care for the fanged fiend, sourcing unsuspecting victims of pure blood to sustain the Count’s life force while he chomps on insects and bugs concealed within a metal snuff box. Crunchy centipedes and flavourful flies bless Renfield with bursts of otherworldly vampiric power to fend off attacks from stake-wielding hunters and pernicious priests…

Director Chris McKay’s twisted comedy recalibrates Bram Stoker’s novel to anoint Renfield as one half of a toxic dependency, who yearns to break free, lease an apartment and trade in the morose disposition and musty suits for pastel hues and sensible knitwear. Screenwriter Ryan Ridley exsanguinates a story idea by Robert Kirkman, co-creator of The Walking Dead, to bless the title character with droll self-awareness as an increasingly violent tug of war between master and minion escalates wildly out of control.

Breathlessly orchestrated fight sequences are slathered in gore as Renfield tears opponents limb from limb, then uses a freshly severed appendage to bludgeon more goons into submission and give delicious new meaning to being armed and dangerous. The backdrop to the bloodbath is present-day New Orleans, a city steeped in superstition that still bears the scars of Hurricane Katrina. Dracula is slowly recuperating in an abandoned hospital. While his master slumbers, Renfield seeks refuge at a local church where Mark (Brandon Scott Jones) facilitates group meetings for addicts of unhealthy relationships and empowers the servant to stand up to his controlling narcissist boss.

The power struggle unfolds on the turf of crime boss Ella Lobo (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her hot-headed son Teddy (Ben Schwartz). A lengthy missing persons’ list of Dracula’s victims threatens to attract righteous local cop Rebecca (Awkwafina) so the Lobos retaliate the only way they know: guns ablazing.

Renfield is a giddily entertaining romp through horror tropes that lovingly recreates scenes from Bela Lugosi’s 1931 Dracula to sketch the title character’s backstory before McKay floods the screen with viscera. The zaniness of Cage’s performance is inversely proportional to the amount of impressive prosthetics (courtesy of make-up artist Christien Tinsely) worn during his rejuvenation from sun-scorched devil to full-blooded predator. There are flashes of delirium from the Oscar winner, blessed with 3D printed fangs, but the second half of McKay’s film screams out for unapologetic showboating rather than the unconvincing romantic subplot that functions meekly as a catalyst for the explosive final act. Now that sucks.

– Kim Hu


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