Review by David J Howe
We had a sense … a feeling that we were going to enjoy Renfield. Nothing you could put your finger on … but we love vampire films, and we also love a good Nick Cage film … and also with Nicholas Hoult in the cast (who was amazing in both Warm Bodies and The Menu) it looked a good bet.
We were not disappointed.
Within three minutes of the film starting, as they are recreating scenes from the original Universal Dracula with Cage as Dracula and Hoult as Renfield, both doing startlingly good impressions of Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye, we were beaming with joy!
From there we’re straight into some fast and furious action as Dracula is cornered by vampire hunters and chased around a room, before he is captured in a circle and burned to a crisp … just superb … and the film has barely started.
In Renfield, the plot is broadly following the title character (Hoult) as he serves his master, Dracula (Cage). The difference is that eating bugs bestows Renfield with some of his master’s power, so he becomes super strong, and can jump and leap around supernaturally … Dracula’s blood also heals him, so the various injuries he sustains from fighting down the bad guys in the drugs cartel are dealt with too … So there’s a bad guy with a cocaine smuggling ring, and Dracula and Renfield fall foul of them … and we follow the threads to a crime boss (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who wants Dracula to help get rid of a rival gang … There’s also a policewoman (Awkwafina) who gets involved, and the whole thing rattles along at a good pace!
We loved the film! The character of Dracula is superbly performed by Cage, the make-up and effects are brilliant, and Cage brings a lot of interest and pathos to the character, which is cast as a classic narcissist gaslighter, who dumps on poor Renfield at every turn, making him feel that everything is his fault. It’s a great reading of the characters, and the script by Ryan Ridley does a good job of bringing it all to life.
Hoult, as expected, plays the downtrodden Renfield very well, and when he joins a kind of AA group for co-dependent abusive relationships, the smiles keep coming!
I’ve seen people hating the film, turning it off and so on … but for my money, if you like vampire films, and appreciate the broad and rich history of them, then you should love this one! It’s a romp, yes, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously … just serious enough for it to entertain without becoming a farce.
I’d give it probably eight or nine out of ten!!