April 13, 2023

GENRE | Nicolas Cage Revamps 'Renfield' Into Action-Comedy

Nicolas Cage Chris McKay | Renfield
Universal Pictures / Skybound Entertainment
Director Chris McKay takes a shot at revamping the Count Dracula mythos around a contemporary R-rated vampire action-comedy starring Nicolas Cage as the dark prince himself alongside a haggard Nicholas Hoult as his eponymous long-suffering "familiar" assistant. Renfield offers a mostly amusing but sadly insubstantial ninety-minute ride of literal blood and guts.

Co-starring Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, and Shohreh Aghdashloo as various oddball side characters with strangely specific backstories who encounter Renfield and Dracula as the former realizes he needs to extract himself from his centuries-old abusive relationship with the latter. Everyone then gets tangled in a weird web of seediness in New Orleans' criminal underworld.

Scripted by Ryan Ridley from a story by comic book creator Robert Kirkman (also a producer), Renfield's painfully oversimplified plotting is its biggest hindrance. New Orleans as a setting here feels so small with an entirely corrupt police force controlled by a ill-equiped organized crime ring based out of what appears to be a central courthouse building in the middle of the city filled with drugs and weapons.

There's just something oddly missing to Renfield's sense of disposable fun haphazardly combining a self-help comedic setup with its group therapy framing device mixed into an organized crime caper. Cage hams it up and the performances are mostly entertaining but its mishmash of film genres without a totally consistent throughline to anchor its horror-comedy antics misses the mark slightly while inviting unfortunate comparisons the similarly premised but far superior What We Do in the Shadows.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Polygon

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