Thursday 4 May 2023

REVIEW: Renfield (2023) - Starring Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina and Nicolas Cage

Review by Jon Donnis
Who could ever have imagined that we would still be making films based on the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker? Well, we are, and the latest version of the tale focuses not so much on Dracula but on his deranged, fanatically devoted servant and familiar, Renfield.

In the early 1900s, a meeting occurs between Transylvanian vampire Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage) and English lawyer R.M. Renfield (Nicholas Hoult). Renfield aims to negotiate a deal for land and impresses Dracula enough to become his familiar (a human who was granted a portion of Dracula's power by Dracula himself). As a result, Renfield becomes immortal and gains superhuman abilities when he feeds on insects.

Fast forward ninety years, and Renfield has grown tired of assisting Dracula in his victim hunting and dealing with his abuse. After narrowly escaping vampire hunters, they relocate to New Orleans to recover. There, Renfield discovers a support group for individuals in co-dependent relationships and hatches a plan to seek out abusive partners of group members and offer them to Dracula as food. While tracking one abusive partner to a warehouse, Renfield is accosted by criminals and is later targeted by an assassin hired by the rival Lobo crime family.

Renfield defeats the assassin but fails to capture the man who hired him, Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz). In a weakened state, Renfield drags the corpses back to Dracula's hideout in the basement of Charity Hospital. Meanwhile, Teddy encounters a police checkpoint manned by Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), a second-generation police officer. Teddy is apprehended after throwing cocaine at her but is later released by corrupt police officers. Rebecca's sister Kate (Camille Chen), an FBI agent, confronts her over the incident.

This is a pretty crazy comedy horror film, very gory and very silly. This is very much a Nicholas Hoult film, but Nic Cage does play the perfect comedy Dracula and is super entertaining throughout.

The film has everything you would want in a silly horror film: people getting killed in inventive ways, great visual effects, likable characters all around. And at about 88 minutes, it is a decent length to keep your attention while also entertaining you.

I also think it is worth noting on a couple of kills, they do this great "Mortal Kombat" style zoom in, x-ray view of the body as bones get crushed; it is very cool.

Awkwafina is great as Rebecca, such a likable actress, and Nicholas Hoult does a great job as Renfield. And Nicolas Cage, well, it's Nicolas Cage, and he has had something of a resurgence in recent years with some of his more lighthearted and comedy roles. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent instantly comes to mind. I am not sure that this film is as good as that one, but it is a lot of fun.

The Good
Great visual effects, a fun story, excellent characters, and lots of over-the-top horror-comedy-style gore.

The Bad
There was no twist or end-credit scene. Does that mean we don't get a sequel?

I really liked this film. After all of the serious horror films I have seen recently, I needed something of a palate cleanser, something I could just sit back and laugh at, while also being disgusted at the ridiculous gore, and this film ticked all the boxes.

Great, fun horror film, not for the squeamish.

I score Renfield a solid 8.5/10

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