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‘Renfield’ (review)

As encountering narcissists is unfortunately something most people have the misfortune of experiencing at some point in life, the premise of Dracula’s servant Renfield breaking free from his master’s devious grasp is therefore one that works rather well in the context of contemporary awareness of toxic interpersonal relationships and the importance of self-care.

Nicholas Hoult makes for an endearingly awkward protagonist as the beleaguered Renfield, who has grown weary of harvesting victims for his evil employer, and the film sees him try to break free of Dracula’s manipulative control in this charming romp.

It is not long before the murderous shenanigans lead to Renfield crossing paths with an assertive counterpart to his emotionally badgered self in the form of Awkwafina’s incorruptible cop character Rebecca Quincy.

Being everything Renfield is not, Rebecca’s seemingly endless attempts to bring down the Lobo crime family are continuously thwarted by her corrupt colleagues in spite of an impressive level of incompetence shown by the young heir to the crime empire in particular.

Nicolas Cage, as one would expect, is fittingly over-the-top as a Dracula hell-bent on world domination, his intensely hammy characteristics marrying well with the iconic character and the overall tone the filmmakers went for with this campy horror comedy.

With laughs aplenty and gory gimmicks to match, the film joins the ranks of recent hit Cocaine Bear in terms of casting anything remotely cerebral to the wayside in favor of blood-spattered slapstick, and Renfield does indeed do a decent job to keep audiences entertained.

However, as much as Renfield certainly ensures a fun-packed 93 minutes of popcorn-munching fun, the film does, however, not feel like it lives up to its full potential; there is a lot of subtext that could be explored here, but the filmmakers barely scratch the surface here, resulting in jarringly underbaked characters and not a lot of character motivations beyond the most basic level of good versus evil.

Sadly, this also affects the inspired casting of Cage as Dracula.

While he unsurprisingly steals every scene he is in, Cage nonetheless feels under-utilized here, as he surely would have been able to go much further in the part if the writing had been stronger.

Similarly, other characters exiting left and right without much fleshing out also takes the engagement with the piece down a notch rather than adding anything meaningful to a film that revolves around themes of personal growth.

The technical aspects of the film are not much to write home about either.

While all of the gore is well done, the editing in the action scenes in particular is less than stellar, just as the overall choreography of these sequences feels sloppy, even if the silliness of the almost cartoonish fight choreography arguably fits in well with the overall comedic tone and therefore avoids becoming too egregious.

It is doubtful that anyone saw the trailer to Renfield and expected the next Citizen Kane, but that does not excuse Renfield from failing to utilize its premise and characters better, as this makes the film a somewhat underwhelming forgettable horror comedy that is great for a fun one-off viewing due to the novel concept and excellent casting of Cage, but ultimately leaves too much to be desired to merit multiple rewatches.

Verdict: 6 out of 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Robert Kirkman, David Alpert,
Bryan Furst, Sean Furst, Chris McKay

Screenplay by Ryan Ridley
Story by Robert Kirkman
Based on Characters Created by Bram Stoker
Directed by Chris McKay
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz,
Adrian Martinez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Nicolas Cage

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