RENFIELD – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Calling all Nicolas Cage fans. This always over-the-top actor finally has a role he can sink his many sharpened teeth into. I am talking about the role of Count Dracula in the new Chris McKay film Renfield. He may not be the lead or even have top billing. That honor goes to Nicholas Hoult as Renfield. You will know him from his many film parts and the X-men franchise. He is almost half the age and even taller than the lanky senior actor. Hoult played Cage’s teenage son 17 years ago in The Weather Man. However, even Mr. Hoult’s star power cannot compete as Mr. Cage chews up the screen and everyone around him. All the while, he looks like he is having a grand time doing it.
Renfield tells the story of Dracula through his often-overlooked loyal servant Renfield. In Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula, Renfield is described as a deranged, fanatically devoted servant and “familiar” living in an insane asylum—eating bugs and hoping for immortality. In this version of the story, the time is now in the city of New Orleans. Renfield has lived for centuries and has turned into the tortured assistant to history’s most narcissistic boss, Dracula. With little thanks, Renfield is forced to procure his master’s prey and do his every bidding, no matter how debased.
Renfield has not lost all his humanity to his madness. And while at a self-help meeting, trolling for people to feed to his boss, he actually starts to listen to what is being said. He begins to believe that he can change if he can figure out how to end his codependency with The Prince of Darkness.
Spurred on to really change by a chance romantic encounter with Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), a traffic cop with a vendetta against the Lobos. Ella (Oscar Nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her son Teddy (Ben Schwartz) lead the brutal drug gang. Renfield must battle for his freedom and save the people he now cares for.
In Renfield, the film is best when telling the relationship between servant and master. These two main characters are fleshed out and illicit real emotions. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of the characters in the film. Awkwafina, by her immense talent and humor, barely saves the paper-thin cop character she is cast in. Ben Schwartz as Teddy does not fare as well. Their characters were just not, pardon the pun, “fleshed out” in the script.
Speaking of flesh, as well as decapitated heads, and blood everywhere, this film has a massive amount of gore. I am not a fan of horror or gory films, but this one won me over and had me laughing out loud. The bloody fighting scenes with wacko violence and guts spilling out are so over the top they are hilarious. Classics like the Sam Raimi Evil Dead films were gory, funny, and scary. This film is more like the comic 2004 Shaun of The Dead movie, where there is gore, but the laughs keep it from being fearful. Honestly, even the biggest scaredy cat can watch this film without being afraid to go to sleep at night.
I give Renfield 3.5 stars because it made me laugh so much. It reminds us that Evil doesn’t span eternity without a bit of help. I would have scored it higher, but the script wasn’t there. It’s an uneven, bloody, gory, funny film that is still worth a trip to the movies to see on the big screen. Stay to the last bit of the credits to soak up all the campy Nick Cage you can.
Directed by: Chris McKay
Written by: Ryan Ridley, Robert Kirkman
Running Time: 1h 33min
Wide Release: In Theaters April 14th
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Nicholas Cage, Awkwafina
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well, there was nothing else…
1 Star – Total waste of time.