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Review: Renfield (2023)

Renfield (2023)

Directed by: Chris McKay

Premise: A spinoff of Dracula. Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has spent decades serving Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage). Now in present day New Orleans, Renfield meets a police officer (Awkwafina) and begins to reimagine his life.

What Works: Renfield has interesting use of color. A lot of vampire films tend to be drab and dark in keeping with a gothic style but Renfield has a lot of color used in some interesting ways. Renfield picks up on the abusive relationship between the vampire and his familiar that is often found in film versions Bram Stoker’s novel. The approach here is interesting with the filmmakers leaning into contemporary therapy language of empowerment and abuse. Renfield also recreates some scenes from Universal’s 1931 version of Dracula which adds a bit of fun for vampire aficionados. Nicolas Cage is well cast as the count and he’s sinister while also incorporating this film’s manipulative take on the character.

What Doesn’t: The best part of Renfield is the relationship between the vampire and his servant but this is drowned out by a lot of distracting and uninteresting subplots. Renfield plays like multiple scripts have been mashed together and the picture diverts into an uninteresting organized crime story. The central conflict between Dracula and Renfield gets lost in the shuffle. This is intended to be a horror comedy but the humor is often smug, especially the dialogue. It’s not funny and frequently obnoxious. No one in this movie feels like they are in the same picture. Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult, and Awkwafina are all acting in ways that feel disconnected from each other. The love story between Hoult and Awkwafina isn’t convincing either. The Dracula of Renfield is imagined as having superhero-like abilities and Dracula is so powerful that he doesn’t need the assistance and the film loses any credibility. Renfield concludes with a copout of an ending that undoes the stakes of the story and the sacrifices of the characters.

Disc extras: Deleted scenes and alternate takes, featurettes, and a commentary track.

Bottom Line: Renfield is a lousy execution of an interesting idea. The picture is smothered in subplots and hampered by lame humor.

Episode: #970 (October 22, 2023)