Unlike Evil Dead Rise, Renfield has been on my radar for a bit. Beyond Nicolas Cage putting on the fangs as cinema’s favourite vampire, the premise sounded intriguing and had the potential to be interesting. Does it live up to it? Let’s find out after the jump. Have you seen Renfield? Let me know in the comments below.
From Dwight Frye to Tom Waits, Renfield has been a zany and maddening harbinger that’s almost carried the tone of each respective Dracula film adaptation. Now in Renfield, the title character takes centre stage in an irreverent riff on Horrible Bosses. Introducing himself as Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), the familiar of Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage) now seeks to escape from his servitude when he starts going to group therapy and meets a brash cop, Rebecca (Awkwafina).
Renfield is a mixed affair comprised of limb-slicing gore and tiring zinging humour. While I appreciated the approach of the film insofar as portraying Renfield realising he’s in a toxic codependent relationship with Dracula, I felt the film surrounding this central journey to be so excessively tongue-in-cheek that somewhere the theme gets lost in the shuffle. Some of the jokes such as sight gags and calling out of the sheer ridiculousness of the Ying and Yang dynamic in the film are clever and funny. However, everything else is mostly delivered in the same stale and loud pitch that it ends up becoming excessive instead of cute.
Nicolas Cage makes Dracula his own by playing him like a broadly drawn theatrical agent who minimizes and tempts via various guises and exaggerated gestures. Meanwhile, Nicolas Hoult is a charming and nebbish presence with a dry wit that often takes chunks out of the scenery as much as Cage.
Much like The Lego Batman movie, Chris McKay directs Renfield with a frenetic verve via camera moves that vary from fast-moving single shots and exacting close-ups (mostly illustrated in a scene when Dracula barges in on Renfield’s support group). And Marco Beltrami’s score is a treat that mixes melancholic jazzy notes with a pulsating electric edge. But for all these virtues that attempt to paper over the cracks in a slick fashion, Renfield’s premise and theme never get to fully soar due to a flippant approach that often feels like it’s denigrating even when it tries to be earnest. In the end, Renfield hisses more then it bites.