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Renfield (2023) - Movie Review

Nicolas Cage has done some questionable movies in recent years. It really seemed like his time among the Hollywood A-Listers was a thing of the past and that any new movie he made was destined for bargain-bin obscurity. And yet somehow, a couple of years ago, thanks largely to his movie, Pig (2021) he’s been steadily making a much welcomed comeback.

His latest film recently started streaming on Amazon Prime, and due to the premise and the character he was playing I was just too damn curious not to see what it was all about.

Renfield (2023)

If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a comedy/horror directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, The Tomorrow War), starring Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies), Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), Ben Schwartz (Sonic the Hedgehog) and of course Nicolas Cage (Face/Off) as Dracula himself.

It’s inspired by characters from the classic 1897 novel, “Dracula” by Bram Stoker.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“Renfield (Hoult), the tortured aide to his narcissistic boss, Dracula (Cage), is forced to procure his master's prey and do his every bidding. However, after centuries of servitude, he's ready to see if there's a life outside the shadow of the Prince of Darkness.”

Going in I knew very little about this movie other than that it was a comedic take on the whole Dracula idea, but this time told from the point of view of Dracula’s bug-eating familiar, Renfield, and with Cage himself playing the infamous Prince of Darkness.

When news started to surface that Nic Cage was going to be playing Dracula I was actually kind of horrified. Don’t get me wrong, I like him as an actor, but at that point there was no other information about the film and I wrongly assumed it would be a serious take on the character. I just couldn’t see him pulling it off in a “non-Nic Cage” way.

As it happens I was right, but it’s one of the things that makes the film so enjoyable, not to mention hilarious. I absolutely loved it!

The story has much more to it than I was expecting which was a nice surprise. Essentially about self-empowerment and breaking free from a toxic relationship, it mixes horror, comedy, crime-drama, and even has action sequences that could quite easily be likened to those in the John Wick movies.

It has a really nice opening sequence that’s a huge nod to (if not a very faithful recreation of) Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931), and the make-up and practical effects are superb - especially early on in the movie when we see a previously burnt Dracula, not quite yet at full health.

I’ve been a fan of Nicholas Hoult ever since seeing him in Warm Bodies (2013) (I’ve never seen About a Boy) and I think he’s a tragically underrated actor. He’s brilliant in this movie as the long-suffering servant of Dracula, and he more than holds his own against “the Cage” as well as carrying the entire movie. The two actors bounce off each other well and their chemistry makes for some really funny moments throughout the film.

Despite my initial reservations Nic Cage is brilliant as Dracula, and, as you’d expect brings his own unique style to the performance. He’s hilarious as Renfield’s demanding and manipulating “boss” and he plays the character in a way we’ve never seen before. In fact it has a very “Castor Troy from Face/Off” feel about it at times (but then is that just Nicolas Cage being Nicolas Cage…?)

With supporting roles from Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz and Shohreh Aghdashloo (24) the story offers much more than the trailer or the synopsis suggests.

Interestingly this film was originally planned to be part of Universal Studios’ “Dark Universe” (a kind of MCU of classic monsters like Dracula, The Wolfman and The Mummy). It was set to have a much more serious tone, but after the failure of The Mummy (2017) it subsequently fell into development hell and the Dark Universe idea was scrapped. Fortunately Renfield was saved, but it gradually evolved into something very different (and in my opinion, something much better).

If you like dark humour and want a movie with a sensible runtime of 94 minutes that’s funny, gory, action-packed, highly entertaining, and something that a lot of movies are seriously lacking in these days, i.e. fun, I can definitely recommend checking this out.

It’s a hilarious and fresh take on the Dracula idea that’s worth watching if only to see Nic Cage in his element as the notorious blood sucking vamp. I for one am glad to see him back.

It’s currently only available to buy for £11.99 on Amazon Prime and on Apple TV for £13.99 but I’m sure it’ll be available to rent very soon.

Seen it? Let me know below.


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