It’s a high-stakes (pun intended) battle between master and familiar in the action-horror Renfield (2023), directed by Chris McKay from a screenplay by Ryan Ridley. Combining deviously fantastical fight sequences, a fiercely fresh take on an unexplored branch of Dracula lore, and downright inspired casting, the film is a sinister spectacle to behold.
Renfieldis an action-packed, off-the-wall romp that hurtles you from fight sequence to fight sequence, all while taking the time to explore the depth of a ninety-year emotionally abusive relationship. With Dracula. Mother effing DRACULA.
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Renfield, portrayed by the perfectly cast (everyone is) Nicholas Hoult doing an uncanny-but-so-perfectly-modernized Dwight Frye a la Dracula (1931), introduces us to his isolated world teetering between the land of the living, and the land of the undead. The eternally damned servant of Dracula (Nicolas Cage), Renfield does the daylight bidding of his vampiric overlord.
It’s present-day in New Orleans, and Renfield has just relocated them to a derelict and likely condemned Hospital to serve as their modern-day Carfax Abbey. (Money is tight for Dracula in the modern age. Inflation. I get it.) Renfield’s main job; to pick up the pieces from Dracula’s last failed conquest, and start the cycle all over again– first by procuring lots and lots of victims for Dracula to regain his strength.
Feeling like a Demeter without a compass (that’s a Dracula joke), Renfield finds some solace by offing twirps he’s found by attending weekly Support Group sessions for people finding themselves in abusive relationships. Unable to cut the ties that bind his own, he might as well sever and serve up someone else’s. But Dracula isn’t down with sinners for supper, and exerts his influence over Renfield to procure more benevolent morsels.
But that’s just it. Renfield doesn’t want to anymore. He’s tired of being a bad guy. And it just so happens he’s met the quintessential ‘good guy’; traffic cop turned one-man-show Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), who’s on her own quest to stop the Lobo crime family and avenge her father’s death.
Renfield faces the ultimate test. Chew those spiders for good… (a twisted, deranged sort of good), or evil– by going back to the emotionally crippling life of being Dracula’s underling. Forever. And ever.
As I mentioned at the top of the synopsis city, Renfielddoesn’t let up. From the moment we spy our first bat, this film is off to the races, thrusting Renfield into a modern underworld of bad guy after bad guy, all while he avoids the very real, and very evil presence in his life.
And though Dracula takes the back seat in this henchmen-to-hero tale, he’s no wallflower. I was anticipating, or perhaps readying myself, for there only to be a few scenes with Renfield confronting Dracula. But he’s never far. He remains a constant lurking presence in Renfield’s life, a presence that takes many different shapes; all of your favorites like fog and a swarm of bats, but also some gruesomely decomposed ones as well. And no surprise to anyone, Nicolas Cage is the perfect performer to bring this modern-day Dracula to life. He oozes that Bela Lugosi sophistication that was etched into Dracula’s lore back in 1931, but retains the zany and unpredictable essence of Cage; a casting decision that effortlessly fits the tone of Renfield, but also brings a wild new realization to Hollywood’s most soulless monster.
” a fiercely fresh take on an unexplored branch of Dracula lore…”
And when speaking of the tone, it would be wrong not to credit the comedy of Renfield. It’s a challenging enough feat to please audiences with action sequences when a John Wick film is fresh in the theatres, and even harder when every single one of your battles has a fighter with insanely supernatural strength and ability (no shame to Keanu) – but to add successful, laugh out loud comedy into the mix? Why that’s a dang feat. Every character gets the opportunity to lob a few laughs into the chaos, but special credit goes to Ben Schwartz as mob-boss-in-training, Teddy Lobo. He’s utterly entertaining in his ineptitude.
Honestly, I’m sad I’m sitting here writing this review right now and not just seeing Renfield again. It filled my little Dracula-loving heart with joy, and I’m ecstatic to be able to enjoy some monster mania on the big screen.
[Review] Nosferatastic! Action-Packed RENFIELD Reanimates the Classic Dracula Story
It's a high-stakes (pun intended) battle between master and familiar in the action-horror Renfield (2023), directed by Chris McKay from a screenplay by Ryan Ridley. Combining deviously fantastical fight sequences, a fiercely fresh take on an unexplored branch of Dracula lore, and downright inspired casting, the film is a sinister spectacle to behold.