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Review: Renfield

Being a worker with a demanding boss is a challenging position. Being the stressed helper to the infamous bloodsucking count is going to test the loyalty to the business. R.M. Renfield has brought countless victims to be feasted on Dracula. Things change when their relationship has come to a boiling point in Renfield. Based on the characters of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a concept by comic book creator Robert Kirkman, Renfield is a modern update on the classic Dracula story. However, Renfield takes center stage as the plot’s protagonist, realizing after decades of faithful servitude to the Transylvanian noble has created a very unhealthy co-dependent association. Looking to break the cycle of abuse, Renfield tries to focus on himself for once.

Nicholas Hoult stars as the troubled Renfield, who is a slight amalgamation of the classic interpretations of the character. He has the clothing, stance, and feverish look of the movie adaptations, with some new interesting takes.  The vampiric dark lord is played by Nicolas Cage, who also is doing his interpretation. It is mainly that of Bela Lugosi’s performance, with random Cage-isms for laughs here and there. Their complicated and toxic bond had first begun when Renfield was drawn to Dracula’s promise of power and purpose. There is a great inclusion of the 1931 film Dracula that sets up the basis of the film and digitally inserts Hoult and Cage. Thru Dracula’s blood, Renfield has been kept alive and given enough potency to fulfill his master’s lust for blood for generations.

However, this Renfield isn’t the typical sniveling minion. By consuming bugs and Renfield absorbs their life force and gain superhuman strength. Renfield can take on all sorts of fights, making a few bloodstained messes of his own. While he can dispatch groups of humans, he can’t seem to break the chains tying himself to Dracula. However, when Renfield discovers the kind and encouraging words from a self-help group, he begins to help the mental wounds left by his master and attempts to add some distance. By chance, he meets Rebecca Quincy, a New Orleans police officer played by Awkwafina. Quincy has been trying to take down a powerful mob in New Orleans and stumbles into a strange connection that has Renfield involved. There is a surprising range from Awkwafina that you don’t easily suspect from the movie. Her introduction and some dialog make her seem like the aggressively sarcastic characters Awkwafina has played before, there is some seriousness to her role and exciting fight scenes that let Awkwafina show off.

Renfield and Quincy have great comedic chemistry, but the real explosive relationship to watch is between Renfield and Dracula. Dracula suspects his servant is not grateful and will remind Renfield who is in charge. Cage steals most of the attention when he is on screen and chews up the scenes. Both Renfield and Dracula have grown to adapt to some of the modern era, Dracula’s desires and need to be desired make Cage’s performance memorable. For big Nic Cage fans, it’s known that Cage has wanted to take up the mantle of Dracula. We got fun and self-aware Dracula that rambles about vicious acts and complaints to Renfield. These scenes are spread out to focus on Renfield’s journey but each unhinged Dracula scenes are very enjoyable.

The overall plot of Renfield doesn’t stray too far from its premise and manages to toss in one or two surprising elements. There are funny jokes and bit characters that are sprinkled in at the right moment to keep the pace going, with some help from Ben Schwartz as a try-hard son of a drug lord. Some fight scenes look a little borrowed from Deadpool but are playful and gore filled for the film’s tone. But it does seem like the bigger climatic fights happen a bit before the third act and you wish they get back to that more. This movie feels right at home with Taika Waititi’s  What We Do in the Shadows and is a fun watch for horror fans. It’s a definite must-watch for Nic Cage fans to finally see him become the vampire he thought he was in Vampire’s Kiss.

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