The character of Renfield has already been portrayed countless times on stage and screen, adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel where R. M. Renfield is introduced as the devoted servant and familiar of Dracula. This latest portrayal sees Nicholas Hoult taking on the role, with the focus more on his character than that of Dracula, played by Nicolas Cage.
When we first meet Renfield, he’s participating in a support group for people who are in toxic relationships, and it’s clear that he’s desperate to break free of his co-dependency to Dracula. A quick recap of their last 100 years together is shown in a wonderful montage of scenes, most of which are black and white recreations or homages to classic Dracula movies, before bringing us to the current state of their relationship. Dracula is currently recuperating and is reliant on Renfield to bring him pure blood, rather than the bad guy stuff that he’s been bringing him so far, in order to bring him back to full power. And Renfield has had enough.
While drowning his sorrows in a bar, pondering on Dracula’s orders to bring him some nuns or cheerleaders, Renfield spots a group of nuns sitting at a nearby table. Then he looks out of the window and sees a bus full of cheerleaders driving by outside! But before he can take action, a bunch of villains from a New Orleans cartel storm the bar wearing masks, headed up by Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz). Teddy is at the bar to try and take out honest cop Rebecca (Awkwafina) who has a very personal reason for wanting to take down the Lobo family. After looking on in awe as Rebecca stands up to the gun wielding Teddy, Renfield decides to save her. He pops a couple of bugs in his mouth, which we’ve already learnt grants him temporary super-human powers, then sets about turning the bar into a bloodbath. Teddy manages to escape but Rebecca and Renfield strike up a friendship, bonding over fact that they are both wanted by the Lobo family.
When Teddy locates the lair where Renfield and Dracula are living he manages to escape the wrath of Dracula by grassing up on Renfield and how he is too busy trying to help innocent people than bringing their bodies to Dracula as ordered. Teddy strikes up an agreement with Dracula and suddenly the odds of Rebecca and Renfield coming out the other side intact suddenly take a nosedive.
So, the trailer for this one really got me interested. Cage looked great as Dracula but it was good to see a shift towards Renfield and a different take on their relationship. It hinted at plenty of bloody action and humour and I couldn’t wait. The result was… good, enjoyable, but something about it that just didn’t fully gel for me. There’s certainly plenty of humour – a Ska joke early on had me laughing out loud – and there’s certainly plenty of action, with limbs and blood flying everything. But it veers inconsistently between serious drama and comedy, like it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be. And while I loved Hoult’s portrayal of Renfield, I wasn’t so much a fan of Cage’s campy Dracula, especially when they came together on screen. What did work for me was the relationship between Renfield and Awkwafina’s somewhat toned down performance as Rebecca and the action scenes – bloody, frantic and brutal.
Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.