Renfield Movie Review
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The Dark One. The Lord of Death. Dracula. Whatever you call him, he’s playing second fiddle in the sidesplitting new horror comedy film Renfield.
Choosing to focus on the famous villain’s lesser-known familiar, Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), director Chris McKay (The Lego Movie), and screenwriters Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead and Ryan Ridley (Rick and Morty turn the vampire world on its (severed) head by reimagining the 100+ year relationship between Dracula (Nicolas Cage) and Renfield to be extremely toxic. What began years earlier as a real estate deal gone wrong and eventual infatuation with Dracula’s grandiose lifestyle now has Renfield yearning to break free from the power that Dracula has over him. But after so many decades together, the big bad has drilled it into Renfield’s head that he is his servant’s “only salvation, only friend, and only one who cares for [him].”
While blessed with eternal life and extreme power when he eats bugs, Renfield feels he’s been duped into spending forever with Dracula, forced to tend to all of his narcissistic master’s needs – the biggest being responsible for finding fresh bodies to feed the bloodsucker. One source of food? Co-Dependent Relationship Anonymous meetings where Renfield goes to be around people like him, but also where he discovers who will be Dracula’s next meal.
Renfield’s life gets flipped upside down after a night out for food results in him saving the life of DUI checkpoint Officer Rebecca Quincy (actress and comedian Awkwafina). That turn of events paints a target on Renfield’s back for the Lobo family, a local criminal drug syndicate, and his boss once he learns of his desire to escape from his stronghold and live like a normal human. What happens next is pure, absurd hilarity.
Cage strikes gold again after starring as, who else, Nic Cage in 2022’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Hoult leads his first film and although he hasn’t struggled to find roles in recent years, his performance in the uproarious Renfield may be the breakout role that takes him to the next level.
A strong support cast rounds out the cast. Brandon Scott Jones moves from the small screen into a memorable role as the overly positive meeting facilitator Mark – so annoyingly positive that even his name tag includes a smiley face. Just as he did in House of Lies and Parks and Recreation brings his comedic talent as the overly confident yet inept Ted Lobo. Shohreh Aghdashloo, most famous for her role as terrorist Dina Araz on the hit series 24, continues her reign on terror as head of the Lobo drug cartel. And then there’s unknown actor T.C. Matherne who steals the show as the simply named Kyle. For anyone named Kyle in real life, they may soon regret their name.
After unsuccessful attempts to launch the so-called Dark Universe, a planned, shared universe of monster films in the 2010’s, Universal has tapped into something different by radically rewriting the stories of “monsters” like The Invisible Man, Renfield, and a just-announced additional film produced by Radio Silence and Project X, who recently directed the franchise-smashing sixth installment of Scream.
2023 has shaped up to be the year for horror comedies after the successful release of films like MEG3N, Cocaine Bear, and even the aforementioned Scream 6. If there is one thing Hollywood likes, it’s trends. And with this blended genre being far more accessible for a wide audience than traditional horror films, it will be interesting to see if studios greenlight additional films in the same vein.
Whatever happens, one thing is true. Renfield is the surprise film of the year with something for everyone. Action. Horror. Comedy. Even romance! A film that never takes itself too seriously, it’s good ole bloody fun!