Is Renfield worth watching?

Universal Pictures film, Renfield starring Nicolas Cage, in theaters April 14
Universal Pictures film, Renfield starring Nicolas Cage, in theaters April 14 /

Vampires are back and Renfield is the latest studio installment. No, really it seems like the vampire fatigue of the late 2000s and early ’10s has finally worn off. The golden era of vampire entertainment with shows and movies like True Blood, Twilight, I Am Legend, 30 Days of Night, and Jennifer’s Body (I could keep going) left the public a bit vampire’d out. But you can’t keep the Count down and out for long and with new films like The Invitation, Renfield, and the upcoming The Last Voyage of the Demeter, the blood sucking fun is back in full swing.

This incarnation of Dracula is played by Nicolas Cage. He’s recovering from a run in with vampire hunters and his loyal servant, Renfield, played by Nicholas Hoult (The Menu), is tasked with bringing him innocent victims so he can get his strength back. The two settle down in an abandoned New Orleans hospital, but Renfield has grown weary of serving Dracula for centuries. He stumbles into a church self-help group and that’s where the comedy really begins.

Renfield is led by a cast of the aforementioned Hoult and Cage and supported by Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, and Shohreh Aghadshloo. The movie was directed by Chris McKay who also directed The Lego Batman Movie. Renfield sits at 58% on Rotten Tomatoes which isn’t a deal breaker, but the question remains, should you stream it on Peacock?

Is Renfield worth watching?

Nicolas Cage has a hell of a time playing the undead Prince of Darkness, Dracula. It’s all the camp we’ve come to expect of Cage in a role like this. His commitment to the bit in all his films (and he’s in A LOT) is commendable. Here, he’s playing a toxic boss-esque character who’s not afraid to literally kill anyone who’s standing in his way.

But Cage’s performance isn’t the whole movie, even though at times you’ll wish it was. The film’s titular character, Renfield, serves as the straight man throughout. He’s comically aware of his situation and is seeking help to get out of it. Renfield is trying to change his life for the better which means leaving his immortal boss, resulting in an out of place sit down confrontation in a color drenched kitchen with Dracula.

The chemistry between Cage and Hoult is electric and humorous, but where the film falters is in its supporting characters. Aside from the main storyline it’s difficult to care for what’s going on. With what feels like a half thought out gangster family sub plot and the head scratching relationship between Awkwafina’s character and her sister, these elements take away from whatever good things Renfield has going for it.

Between those blander moments is where the film thrives. There’s deadpan (no pun intended) comedy that works well and the evolution of Renfield’s style plays as a nice gag. The support group is a shining feature with Brandon Scott Jones playing the group’s leader, Mark, who encourages Renfield to leave his toxic, co-dependent relationship. The makeup of Dracula is also a high-point as we see him grow to power in different, disgusting stages reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s The Fly.

The manipulation and gaslighting from Cage’s dialogue is laugh out loud funny and, of course, timely. The slow motion, hyper violence plays, at best, as a throwaway joke, too unserious to even be a bit shocking as limbs are cut off using serving platters. Awkwafina’s character sucks screen time as a not corrupt cop in a city full of corrupt cops. The character lacks any depth, but Awkwafina should not be at fault. She does well in her scenes with Hoult, but it’s a character arc we’ve seen hundreds of times and overall poorly written.

Ultimately, the scenes between Hoult and Cage save the film. The best moments are watching Cage put his signature manic spin on Dracula. For a horror comedy, you can definitely do worse than Renfield and with a 93 minute runtime it goes by quickly with some quality laughs. In a movie year that has yet to have many highlights, Renfield is worth a watch.

Renfield drops on Blu-ray with bonus feature-stuffed Dracula Edition. dark. Next