Two men standing together conversing. One with decayed flesh and the other with pale skin.

Renfield (2023) Spoiler-Free Review

In the last 20 years, Chris McKay has won my heart. He became one of my favorite directors. His humor and mastery over complex narratives make him a standout among filmmakers. Chris McKay directed Robot Chicken, The Lego Movie, and The Tomorrow War. Enter the collaboration of a lifetime: the American gem, Nicholas Cage. My fandom with the actor goes back to me as a little boy, about 7 years old. 

My grandmother played a significant role in my development as The Cinematic Witness. The movies we viewed together helped shape my inner critic and standard of storytelling. Face/Off is the first film I saw Nicolas Cage in, alongside megastar John Travolta. A strange and captivating movie for my young mind to process, but I got the gist of the plot. So much so that a few years later, I sat with bated breath with my grandmother in the living room for Gone in 60 Seconds to play on bootleg VHS. 

Imagine my surprise when I learned Nicolas Cage would play the role of Dracula in Renfield. Cage as the daddy of all vampires? Listen, when it comes to over-the-top acting, bordering on insanity, Nicolas Cage delivers every single time without fail. Renfield is a horror-comedy about Dracula’s human servant and accessory to murder for centuries, who is having an existential crisis. It’s a fantastic spin on the vampire genre through a unique lens not often seen in the industry.

Most people know who Dracula is and his infinite number of spinoffs and interpretations. As a character in the public domain, copious tales have been told of “the first vampire” or “Vlad the Impaler.” So much so that Dracula has become a caricature of himself. A trope with a funny accent. Renfield embraces this identity, taking it to the extreme end of the spectrum. The movie is batshit bonkers!

With an R-rating to toe, the amount of blood shown on screen is shameful, in a good way. For comparison, take the gore and carnage from Mortal Kombat games and couple it with Rambo from 2008. The production team used gallons upon gallons of blood. Besides the fact it looks unconvincing as hell, Renfield reminds viewers how menacing Dracula can be. He can massacre an entire militia in seconds without breaking a sweat, personifying the term overpowered.

Rebecca (Awkwafina) and Raeford Morton Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) are the main characters outside of Dracula himself. Little to no chemistry existed between the two. I’m not suggesting they be romantic partners, but they seemed to be in two movies. Almost as if she shot her scenes without Hoult, except when they exchange dialogue. Rebecca didn’t grow much and remained the same from start to finish.

However, Raeford went through quite the transformation, pun intended. In the current age of cinema, superhero stories reign supreme at the box office. Renfield delivers a realistic approach to what can happen when a human being is given ungodly powers. People can get torn apart like confetti with a simple punch or kick. In this regard, it’s refreshing to see the damage extraordinary abilities can inflict when the wielder is not holding back. 

Shows like Invincible and The Boys on Prime Video have found great success capitalizing on this theme. Don’t go into this expecting a heart-pumping thriller or horror flick filled with jump scares. Renfield is an uncensored smorgasbord of dismemberments. The human anatomy gets disrespected on a whole nutha level. This complements the slapstick humor, a parody of all vampire tropes brought front and center. 

A few thought-provoking ideas are in Renfield. Even while poking fun at the ridiculous nature of bloodsuckers, McKay incorporates some powerful messages. There’s a not-so-subtle commentary on how mental health and self-care have become commercialized—an analysis of nurtured victimhood in society. This might come off as a cheap horror picture to check out as a matinee, but it is more than meets the eye. Renfield stuck its fangs in me and produced an 8 out of 10.

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