Dir. Chris McKay (2023)
Dracula's henchman Renfield seeks a life out from under the Count's thumb.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Believe it or not, I'm not really all that into vampires. I'm not saying that there are no good vampire movies (and I'm a particularly big fan of The Lost Boys), but the gothic ambience and the romantic drama just never felt particularly horror to me. I get it, they drink blood, they raise from the dead, they stalk around old, dark castles with their virgin brides. Meh. Not my thing. I do, however, love Nicolas Cage at his Nicolas Cagiest, and the promise of a Nicolas Cage vampire that's part Lugosi and part Underworld with some legitimate comedy hearkening to the beginning of his career is just too much to pass up.
Ironically (or perhaps not considering the name of the movie), Cage is hardly the star of the film. Nicholas Hoult plays the titular Renfield, Dracula's servant who is imbued with some of his power through eating bugs. Police officer Rebecca (Awkwafina), an overzealous cop who seeks to revenge her father's death by bringing down the local street gang, finds herself stuck right in the middle of Dracula's plot to take over the world... with Renfield's help. It's a contrived plot, really, one that barely makes sense in the context of the Dracula mythos.
It doesn't have to, though. This is purely a vehicle for Hoult and Cage to have as much fun possible by tearing through random citizens in as gory a way possible. Thankfully, the fun is easily transferred to the audience. This isn't going to be the smartest and most meaningful movie you've seen, but it's hilarious, brutal as all hell, and an enormously fun popcorn movie. That's all it was ever intended to be, and it accomplishes it's goal successfully. I wasn't expecting nearly as much gore, and Renfield is probably the bloodiest movie I've seen since Terrifier 2.
It's also genuinely hilarious. Ben Schwartz, who plays Teddy Lobo, the son and heir apparent of the gang, basically reprises his iconic role from Parks and Recreation. Awkwafina is charming and sincere, the straight man to Hoult's aloof and naive Renfield. And Cage... by God is Cage a good Dracula, an updated, monstrous Count of Wallachia who still maintains the look made popular way back in 1931.
Renfield is a sleek and modern retelling of the Dracula story, transporting it from the dark, gothic world of Eastern Europe to the glitz, glamor, and rampant crime of New Orleans. Rather than stick with Lugosi's slow, dreamy, and oddly erotic form of control and combat, Cage's Dracula and Hoult's Renfield are Billy Blanks mixed with Neo from The Matrix. And it's a hell of a lot of fun to watch. I had zero desire to see this, and was pleasantly surprised by one of the more entertaining movies I've watched this year.
Who this movie is for: Vampire fans, Horror comedy lovers, Self help groups
Bottom line: A surprisingly entertaining and genuinely hilarious movie with more gore than I thought possible for a major studio release. Nicolas Cage is delightfully unhinged as the Count, the other Nicholas is charming and compelling as Renfield, and the rest of the cast is lively and outstanding. Stylish, bloody, and an excellent update to one of horror's more stale characters. Check this one out, even if you don't think you have an interest. It just might surprise you.