Review by Sean Boelman
Although the protagonist of the movie is actually Nicholas Hoult’s character, Renfield will likely always be known as the “Nic Cage Dracula movie,” and that’s alright. Often funny and boasting some unexpectedly awesome action sequences, Renfield is a really strong ninety-minute popcorn flick.
The film follows the familiar of Dracula as he decides to stop serving his master’s every command, only to unintentionally release a flurry of bloodshed and his master’s wrath. Although the idea of taking a classic monster and placing him into a comedy is nothing new, Renfield does it in a way that still feels fresh and original.
The comedy in Renfield can be somewhat hit-or-miss. Although there are plenty of gut-bustingly funny moments — many of the best of which are fish-out-of-water comedy moments in which Dracula attempts to understand the nuances of the modern day — there are also several one-liners that could be met with crickets.
Although there are plenty of really funny moments, the more impressive parts of the movie are arguably its action sequences. Not only are they well-choreographed, energetic, well-shot, and enjoyably gory — but they also take advantage of the film’s silly tone in a way that is relentlessly fun, with flourishes like impaling someone with a severed arm making this stand out from other horror-comedies.
The main reason that many people will be drawn to this movie is to see Nicolas Cage play a hammy version of Dracula, and the film delivers on that promise. Cage gives a wild performance that, while feeling like “Nicolas Cage playing Dracula” more than actually being Dracula, is enormously fun to watch.
However, one of the biggest surprises of the film is that Cage may not be the biggest highlight of the cast — even if he is the most memorable and the biggest draw. Instead, the scene-stealing turn comes from Ben Schwartz, who is hilarious (as usual) as the secondary antagonist, playing what amounts to a villainous mobster version of Jean-Ralphio Saperstein.
A more negative surprise is that Nicholas Hoult and Awkwafina feel put to waste in the movie. Although the character of Renfield is undeniably charming, Hoult does disappointingly little to make the character his own. On the opposite end, Awkwafina’s character is extremely bland, and while she attempts to infuse some personality into the role with her usual schtick, it doesn’t work.
Renfield is a very enjoyable film, but where it thrives the most is its action. Other than Nicholas Hoult and Awkwafina — who both feel rather underutilized — this is a really solid combination of all of its elements in a way that is sure to please audiences.
Renfield screened at the 2023 Overlook Film Festival, which runs March 30-April 2 in New Orleans, LA.