I really wanted to like Renfield. Goofy vampire movies are such an unfulfilled niche in media, only really seen in What We Do in the Shadows, Buffy, and a few random films. So when I first saw the trailer for Renfield I was elated. I mean, Nic Cage as Dracula? It can’t get better than that!
Unfortunately, it could get worse.
Director: Chris McKay
Release Date: April 14
The premise of Renfield is pretty solid: Renfield (Nicolas Hoult) is Dracula’s (Nicolas Cage) long-term assistant, bringing him blood and keeping him safe in the 21st century. But Renfield is fed up with Dracula’s abuse, eventually joining a support group for people in toxic codependent relationships and trying to slip away from Dracula’s grasp. There’s police, a gang, and lots of bugs as Renfield and Dracula struggle for power in their centuries old relationship, eventually leading to Renfield’s freedom.
Nicolas Hoult and Nicolas Cage were great, but almost every other character was either flat and one-dimensional or a caricature. For example, I love Ben Schwartz but his role as Teddy, the Lobo crime family’s son, was grating. The dialogue can be too much when every line is trying to be a funny quip. Not to mention how predictable it all felt in Renfield’s break-up with his boss.
I think I struggled to connect with Renfield because I wasn’t quite sure what Renfield’s actual motivations were. Sure, he feels bad about murdering people and abandoning his family. But there wasn’t much else to grab onto. And Rebecca’s (Awkwafina) side-plot felt unnecessary. The weird will-they-won’t-they between Renfield and Rebecca was awkward and ended up pushing a tired narrative about “cops are bad except some have actual morals!”.
Another aspect I disliked about Renfield was its lighting. The green tones gave everyone in the film a washed-out look, giving less of a visual distinction to Renfield. It just looked bad. There were definitely moments where it could have been used effectively, but almost every interior and night scene was lit like this. Combined with the almost perfect wrap-up at the end of the movie (spoiler: almost every innocent or good person that dies is miraculously brought back to life!) Renfield is full of lazy decisions that undermine any real character development that could have happened.
I did enjoy the action and fight scenes throughout the film. That was certainly the campiest part of Renfield, as some of the gore was borderline ridiculous and extremely violent. Nicolas Hoult certainly rose to the challenge by portraying Renfield as a burnt-out half vampire who is totally over his boss. And the interactions between Renfield and Dracula were great, making me wish there was a lot more of Nic Cage throughout the film.
Renfield was certainly not the film I was hoping it was. Aside from Nicolas Hoult and Nic Cage, all the other actors felt misused or underdeveloped. Along with some cringeworthy dialogue and unneccesary side-plots, Renfield is a film I would not want to see again.
Renfield is now playing in theaters.