Review: Renfield (2023)

Universal rarely miss an opportunity to exploit their ‘Classics Monsters’ but after the failed ‘Dark Universe’ the studio sought different ideas, enter the new release horror/comedy, Renfield; servant, familiar, sidekick and long-time companion to Count Dracula.

After a century of loyalty, Robert Montague Renfield, played by Nicolas Hoult, grapples with the toxic relationship under Dracula’s narcissistic cape, longing to escape the carnage his master demands of him for eternal life.

Redfield poses a fun idea, but it’s poorly executed, resorting to generic plot devices and mindless action filler that’s more akin to the style of a John Wick sequel. Furthermore, the film takes place in New Orleans, but it might as well be any major city as none of the rich cultural atmosphere or occult make-up of the Louisiana capital is utilised, apart from a spooky themed restaurant that serves for just one of several CGI blood-soaked scenes. There’s apparently an R-rated cut slated for the film’s subsequent physical release, which is enticing to many horror fans, but I suspect it’ll be even a lesser version of what we saw on the big screen.

Nicolas Cage as Dracula embraces his ‘Internet Meme’ persona and while he does meet expectations, his screen time is naturally limited as this isn’t his story, although his presence does manage to somewhat counter the film’s less inspired portions. As does Hoult as the titular emotional victim, who plays it quite straight, whereas other incarnations usually exhibit a degree of insanity, but we still have the insect-eating. Awkwafina as Asian-American ‘Serpico’, Rebecca, and Ben Schwartz as mobster mommy’s boy, Tedward, both deliver as opposing supporting acts, adding to the talented cast.

Renfield opens with an introduction using snippets of the classic Dracula only with Cage and Hoult in the place of Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye. It looks and works amazingly well, proof of a creative spark that could have been explored much further instead of playing it safe. However, there are moments later in the movie such as very fleshy Dracula, in all practical prosthetics, which is very reminiscent of Jack’s decaying living corpse in An American Werewolf in London and the scene is played in a very John Landis comedic style. That only was worth the trip to my local cinema on an overcast Sunday afternoon.

(2023, director: Chris McKay)



production stills courtesy of Universal Pictures



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