Does your life feel like you’ve been trapped in a Cage with the Lord of Darkness? Get some help in our Renfield review.
The tale of Count Dracula has been told a hundred times across pop culture. There’s been silver screen classics like Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror and 1931’s Dracula, through to more playful modern renditions like Van Helsing or even Hotel Transylvania. And of course, who could forget videogame adaptations like Castlevania or Vampire: The Masquerade? There’s barely a year that goes by without a new version of our favourite vampiric villain.
Okay, who let Dracula out of his Cage?
But there are few adaptations quite as absurd as Renfield, directed by Chris McKay and starring the unbelievable talent of Nicholas Cage as a manipulative mastermind. Rather than placing Dracula in the lead role, this dark comedy takes a step back and places its entire responsibility upon the quivering shoulders of an unfortunate familiar, Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult).
So does it seriously suck, or are viewers in for a bloody good time? Find out in our Renfield review.
Renfield Review – Story
No villain would be complete without a servant to do their dirty work. After stumbling across the lord of darkness during a business decision gone terribly wrong, R.M. Renfield finds himself locked into a real estate contract offering more than just property. Blessed with just a fraction of Dracula’s powers: eternal life and inhuman strength, Renfield unwillingly becomes Dracula’s familiar for eternity.
Your slave till the grave.
After a century of servitude, Renfield finds himself trapped in an endless cycle. Every few years, Count Dracula goes on a tirade, gravely injures himself, and Renfield must revive his master to full power through collecting innocents for him to feed on. Rinse the blood off and repeat. But he’s grown tired of this life, so taking matters into his own hands, he decides to… join a self-help group?
Even horrors beyond comprehension need a little help sometimes.
This eye-opening experience leads Renfield to a conclusion of sheer horror, one he’s been blind to his entire life: he’s living with a narcissist. Spurred on by the advice of his self-help group, Renfield ventures out on last time to capture innocents for his master before everything goes terribly right. After inadvertently saving an innocent group of onlookers from a murderous drug empire, Renfield realises there’s so much more to life than death.
This is actually the face of a killing machine.
Without giving much more away, the story of Renfield is downright absurd (if you somehow haven’t realised already). The film’s narrative is incredibly self-aware and tongue-in-cheek, weaving a comedic twist on a classic tale of horror. And it’s this silliness that’s both a strength and a weakness, as the story absolutely nails its comedy, but the drama and emotive scenes are incredibly hit-and-miss.
Renfield Review – Acting & Direction
You might have been expecting Nicolas Cage to be the star of the show, assuming the devilish demeanour of Dracula. But in a movie specifically dedicated to Dracula’s familiar, you’ll become well acquainted with Renfield himself thanks to a stellar performance from the other Nicholas, Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: Days of Future Past).
His bright, positive, and even vibrant delivery throughout the film is the perfect contrast to Cage’s villain. Renfield is wonderfully portrayed like a ray of sunshine in a dark and depressing world, a flower blooming in a field that has withered from a plague of locusts. Hoult’s performance really is the perfect juxtaposition to none other than the pure evil of Count Dracula.
Family photos are always awkward.
What more can be said about Nicolas Cage that hasn’t already been said? As one of the most widely-recognised actors of the century, Cage brings unique pieces of himself to the role of Dracula that truly shine through. His performance is disturbing, manipulative, and at times will make viewers quite uneasy. Despite his dedication to the character, Cage still has plenty of fun in the role, inserting his unique mannerisms and quips to please his fans.
He doesn’t want to get into your pants, he wants to get into your carotid artery.
The film’s direction blurs the line between multiple genres and, in doing so, fails to truly excel in any. Until you’ve watched Renfield, it can be difficult to explain just exactly how this is a Horror/Action/Drama/Comedy/Satire/Mockumentary/Buddy Cop/Fantasy film, but that’s exactly what it is, an unholy amalgam like Dracula himself. There are moments where Renfield’s style and tone changes so whiplash-inducingly fast that you’ll be wondering whether they’ve somehow swapped the film while you blinked.
Wait, surely this isn’t the same film. This is Police Academy XIII-3, right?
But where Renfield truly excels is in its absurdly over-the-top action and comedy sequences. This is a legitimately hilarious movie for viewers with a dark sense of humour, especially those who don’t mind a bit of blood splatter, gore, and death. Although primarily a comedy, some incredibly impressive and dynamic fight scenes will leave you either gasping in terror or holding back tears of laughter.
Renfield Review – Audio
The score to Renfield is courtesy of Marco Beltrami, a pioneer of not only the sound of modern horror, but has found himself flitting through just as many genres as Renfield itself.
With quintessential horror titles like Scream and A Quiet Place under his belt, alongside others like World War Z and Logan, Beltrami is a composer with incredible versatility. That’s exactly what you’ll be treated to through the soundtrack of Renfield, which expertly draws upon the sound of classic horror and garnishing it with a dose of comedy and action.
The opening track, “Back to the Beginning”, perfectly sets the tone of the film.
Slappin’ funk? In my horror movie? It’s more likely than you think.
With many scenes so over-the-top and absurd, the sound design rises to meet the ridiculousness. You’ll be treated to bone-crunching, flesh-squelching, blood-splattering sounds that echo throughout the cinema or your living room with every corpse flung against a wall. It sounds just as grotesque as it looks, perfectly enhancing the absurdity of the film. There’s one scene in particular where Renfield is armed and dangerous where the sound of the action truly comes alive!
Mixing together genres like a mash of body pieces ground up in a blender, Renfield is a strange experience that will massively appeal to a certain audience. If you’re a horror fanatic and don’t enjoy your terror intertwined with silliness, then Renfield may miss the mark completely. But for fans of dark comedy and Nicolas Cage, this film is absolutely killer and you’re going to find yourself having a bloody good time.
So, why should you watch Renfield?
- Delightful performances from both Nicks
- Hilarious comedy and over-the-top action
- You’re a fan of Nicolas Cage
- Actually a banger of a soundtrack
But why shouldn’t you watch Renfield?
- Not a fan of silly movies? This one’s not for you
- Many dramatic moments fall flat
- Focuses on too many genres to fully excel in any
A preview screening was kindly provided Universal Pictures Australia for the purpose of our Renfield review. Hungry for more horror? Chew into our Evil Dead Rise review and join us on the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about all the latest films.