Renfield (2023): Certainly Does Not Suck

“Renfield” is directed by Chris McKay (The LEGO Batman Movie, Robot Chicken) and stars Nicholas Hoult (The Menu, Tolkien), Awkwafina (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Raya and the Last Dragon), Ben Schwartz (Sonic the Hedgehog, Parks and Recreation), Adrian Martinez (Stumptown, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse, 24), and Nicolas Cage (The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Croods). This film centers around Dracula’s servant, Renfield, who puts up with the former’s demands, no matter how outlandish or terrifying. After all this time, he has had enough and will do anything to end their working relationship.

The Universal monsters are not my forte. I am well aware that Count Dracula is not a Universal concept and instead originated by author Bram Stoker, but I also know that he among other monsters like the Invisible Man and the Mummy have had staying power through several Universal films, including the original black and white picture from 1931 and more modern tales like Francis Ford Coppola’s picture from 1990 and “Dracula: Untold” from 2014. That said, I have not watched a lot of Universal monster movies. But I also recognize how unique this feature is. Because instead of giving the audiences another tale about a monster they’ve already heard about, they put a cool spin on it and make the iconic monster you normally see in the spotlight earn the supporting role. In fact, if you watch the first trailer, Dracula is not the centerpiece. Sure, he makes an appearance at the end, but it is not his movie. And of course, how could one not get excited seeing Nicolas Cage himself play the bloodthirsty demon? The moment I saw his face, my jaw dropped, and my eyes lit up.

I was excited to see this movie and hoped I could watch it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I ended up waiting a month after it came out. But was it worth the wait? Definitely. “Renfield” is a good time.

“Renfield” blends perhaps the two most subjective film genres imaginable, comedy and horror. Thankfully, both blend perfectly from start to finish. I enjoyed the relationship between Renfield and Dracula that can be compared to a relationship a deprived employee may have with an abusive boss. In fact, much of the movie is about Renfield trying to get away from his abusive environment, and to do so, he ends up going to support group meetings. We see him unleash his honest thoughts and listen to the thoughts of others. Is it the funniest movie I have ever seen? No. Is it the scariest movie I have ever seen? No. But it still manages to have its highlights of humor and creeps. Although there is one haunting moment past the halfway point that continues to stick with me. And these elements are well realized thanks to the talent of this film’s cast.

Between “The Menu,” the runner-up for top movie of 2022 for me, and now this, Nicholas Hoult is on a roll. His career is on a smooth path, and I am eager to see where it goes from here. His interpretation of Renfield emits awkwardness. Although in a good way. He is simply a guy who is just doing the best he can to get by. He wants to make people happy, but because he is focusing on making someone else, specifically Dracula, happy, he has little time for himself to be happy. In addition to everything I said about Hoult’s character, he is also responsible for perhaps one of the better Old Navy ads I have seen, which having seen their on-air content, is not saying much, but still.

I would say Awkwafina does an okay job as Rebecca. She has good chemistry with Hoult throughout the film.

Although if I have to say one thing though about Awkwafina, she is beginning to remind me of Kevin Hart or Vin Diesel. While I think she has significantly more acting talent than the latter, the problem I have with her, perhaps through no fault of her own, is that like these two individuals, she has been playing the same role from one film to the next. And maybe it is because, kind of like Kevin Hart, her voice, if you have heard it in recent years, has become instantly recognizable. And even while it may have been a proper fit for characters in animated movies she’s been in like “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “The Bad Guys,” it is difficult to find a role where I don’t see elements of her I have not seen prior. This is not to say she is a terrible actor. In fact, she is one of the reasons why “The Farewell” became one of my favorite films of 2019, but a lot of her recent material contain inklings that have become trademarks, making the transformation factor feel lost at times.

That said, what I see of Awkwafina in this film, happens to be a showcase of her strengths as a performer. She maintains a tough attitude as a traffic cop and knows how to balance that with a softer side in other moments. So while I may put this up as a warning for where her career could go, I will say I enjoyed what I saw in this moment.

But of course, Nicolas Cage steals the bloody show as Dracula. There is no way I can do this review and not highlight the power of the mighty Nicolas Cage as the iconic creature. He is all creepy, all kooky, and brings no mercy. Now he is not super terrifying, because this film takes a more comedic approach in its storytelling. Although as I said before, the comedy works and the scares work. It is no masterpiece, but it is a good time at the movies. That said, going back to what I said about Awkwafina becoming more recognizable in her performances, I may be a hypocrite because despite Nicolas Cage being recognizable, I think that element enhances his performance a bit. Seeing his face, which has become a meme by now, honestly makes the character that much funnier. His over the top voice helps too. Every scene he is in, I cannot help but smile. It is not just because it is Nic Cage as Dracula, although it is a small part of it the more I think about it. But he shows no hint of empathy throughout the film and it continues to highlight him as a threat. If there is any reason you should see “Renfield,” I think the most compelling argument you could make in a Times Roman Numeral 12-point font double spaced essay, or whatever other format you choose, is Nicolas Cage as Dracula. He certainly does not suck.

If I have anything else to add, the pacing is really good. The movie is short but manages to avoid overstuffing itself. The climax, while not my favorite of the year, is definitely entertaining. While the movie is not perfect, there are no flaws I can point out that ruined everything. Give “Renfield” a watch sometime, I recommend it.

In the end, “Renfield” is great! I think this film would make for a solid Friday movie night with friends, maybe with some food. The actors all fulfill their roles perfectly, especially Cage as Dracula. I think the film is a neat parody of the Dracula character while serving as a spotlight on abusive relationships. This film is directed by Chris McKay, whose parody experience is not only related to this effort. In addition to his experience behind the scenes on many “Robot Chicken” episodes, he also helmed “The LEGO Batman Movie,” which I think is one of the more underrated animated films of the previous decade. McKay definitely has a knack for comedy, not to mention parody. I cannot wait to see what he does next. I am going to give “Renfield” a 7/10.

“Renfield,” which has been out since April, is now playing in select theaters. The film is also now available on digital platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “BlackBerry,” the brand new film inspired by the true story of the once popular smartphone. Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Blackening” and “Fast X.” All of these reviews are coming soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Renfield?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Nicolas Cage film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s