REVIEW: Renfield

Renfield (2023) is an action horror comedy starring Nicholas Cage, Nicholas Hoult, and Awkwafina. Bluntly, whether you enjoy this movie will probably be decided purely on whether the prospect of Nicholas Cage as Dracula intrigues you.

If you like the prospect of Nicholas Cage as the Prince of Darkness, know that he could have played the role in a subdued as well as dignified fashion. Nicholas Cage did not do this. Instead, he went the full Cage and everything enjoyable about this movie can directly be related to him going the full Cage. This is funny because Nicholas Cage is not the star.

Allegedly.

In fact, as the title implies, this is, technically, Renfield’s (Nicholas Hoult) story. The movie is an unofficial sequel to the 1931 Universal Horror movie version of Dracula and even has CGI-ed footage inserting both Cage as well as Hoult. Here, Dracula survived or came back from the dead and has been carrying on with Renfield for the past century. Renfield is immortal as his servant but enslaved both psychologically and physically to Dracula’s power.

Being a servant comes with some perks other than immortality including being able to throw around regular humans like ragdolls. However, Renfield is expected to find an endless parade of victims for Dracula, and he’s disgusted when you bring him bad people instead of innocents. Renfield has tried to break away in the past but ended up getting the last two vampire hunters in the world killed in the process.

There’s a surprising amount of pathos to be had with Renfield as the movie leans hard into the idea that their relationship is an abusive romantic one. It’s subtextual because this version of Dracula is disgusted at the media’s attempt to make eating people sexual. No, sir, eating people is purely for evil. However, Renfield attends groups to try to reassert his independence and also reads self-help manuals in hopes of getting out from underneath Dracula’s talons.

The story about Renfield’s abusive relationship with Dracula intersects with a crime movie as a New Orleans policewoman (Awkwafina) is trying to put an end to the Lobos gang that killed her father. Unfortunately, said gang has the entirety of the police in her pocket except for her and is perfectly willing to kill her if she annoys them. A chance encounter shows that Renfield isn’t remotely afraid of a bunch of human gangsters and leads to worlds colliding.

Much of the movie is about zigzagging between the pathos of Renfield trying to escape Dracula’s control into gory action scenes that include plenty of black comedy in both. As stated, this is Nick Cage’s movie and his playing the Lord of the Vampires is awesome as well as hilarious. Nick’s interpretation is utterly ridiculous but no less terrifying due to how inhumanly evil he is while asking for cheerleaders to snack on.

I’m not a big fan of Awkwafina, thinking she generally overacts way too much in any role she’s cast in, but she dials it down in a movie where everyone else is hamming it up. While not quite the straight woman, her wackiness is much more entertaining in limited doses. The fact she’s genuinely horrified and traumatized by her father’s death gives her character enough meat to have a role in a film with Dracula as well as his slave.

In conclusion, I recommend this movie as a “so bad it’s good” of the S tier. It’s campy and serious in all the right places. This is the kind of movie that is an easy watch and I’d probably watch the sequel for (if there was one) even though it’s not going to be winning any awards.

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CT Phipps

CT Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He's the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga. He is also a frequent contributor to Grimdark Magazine.