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Renfield

****
2023

‘…Cage and co manage to make this version of the Count a bloody entertaining action comedy…’

Double yikes! Nicolas Cage playing Count Dracula? Cage says he ate several cockroaches to play his role in 1998’s Vampire’s Kiss, so his qualifications for this part are beyond reproach. After sending himself (and his unique acting style) up so effectively in An Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Cage returns in Chris McKay’s 80’s influenced action comedy, which certainly provides the star with a dramatic role; starting out as a rotting corpse, Dracula’s nocturnal feeding habits slowly turn him back into the more saturnine character we’d recognise from the various books and films he’s featured in. Fortunately for Renfield the movie, this incarnation of the vampire king turns out to be a funny and often ingenious look at how Dracula might be surviving in the self-dealing, all-about-me world of 2023.

We meet Dracula, as usual, through his obedient, bug-munching servant Renfield, played with some spark by Nicholas Hoult. Renfield is first sighted at a New Orleans counselling meeting for those seeking to escape negative or controlling relationships; if nothing else, Renfield is in the right place even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. Renfield is initially in thrall to his Master, and his ears prick up when he gleans information at the group that might lead to fresh meat for his blood-sucking boss. Helping Renfield be the best, pastel-sweater-sporting version of himself, Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina) is a tough local traffic cop who realises that the bloodletting in a local gang drugs war might have a supernatural twist, and sets out to help Renfield find his mojo, say no to narcissism and escape an abusive relationship with Dracula to find his own personal freedom.

Renfield was original mooted as part of Universal’s aborted Monsterverse monster-mash project, but feels very different from the existing entries; by keeping Dracula largely off-stage over the comical scenes, McKay manages to create real visceral impact when Cage’s Dracula appears. Hoult and Awkwafina are both empathetic, likable leads, and the view of modern pop psychology in collision with violent bloodletting, lands firmly as satire. Renfield is a violent, blood-splattery film, but it shares the same genial what-if? feel of the Lego movies, and offers a welcome, original spin on an over-familiar character.

A reference to “President Dracula’ also marks this movie as being one of the first post-Trump movies, with the protagonist’s journey reflecting a nation’s innocent struggle to escape from the dark shadow of a manipulative, insincere abuser. But such notions are largely kept to the side in favour of crowd-pleasing carnage as Cage offers one of the more threatening incarnations of Bram Stoker’s famous character, more Christopher Lee than George Hamilton; the specific time-period and cultural references mean that this may not turn out to be a Dracula for the ages, but Cage and co manage to make this version of the Count a bloody entertaining action comedy.

Renfield hits UK and US screens on April 14th 2023.

Thanks to Universal for providing big-screen access to this title.

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  1. Renfield as celeb PA sounds like a good idea, but didn’t get the sense from the trailer that they had a full movie’s worth of material here.

    Beau Is Afraid up next?

    • Whoever I can see it, advance word is good.

      I sense they cut a lot out of this, the trailer has scenes not in the movie, but it’s pretty entertaining.

      • Been hearing Beau is getting mixed reviews out of the gate, which isn’t a good sign. Also sounds like Aster is still having trouble with bloat.

        Have to wait for the DVD of this one. Back to watching the FIDE Chess championship. Gripping stuff . . .

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