As a modern-day Dracula story set in New Orleans, RENFIELD is a literal blood bath punctuated by thirst-quenching performances from Nicolas Cage as the Transylvanian vampire and Nicholas Hoult playing his obedient servant, Robert Montague Renfield. Billed as a horror comedy with an “R” rating and a running time of only 93 minutes --- so rare these days --- this overtly campy ode to the undead is definitely different.
Poor put-upon Renfield. He gave his life years ago to serve his master and now he finds himself in a support group for co-dependent people. Led by Mark (Brandon Scott Jones), a compassionate soul, each week the group members relay the efforts they’ve taken --- or not --- to extricate themselves from these unhealthy relationships. Moved by Mark’s encouragement --- and a self-help book --- Renfield attempts to break free from his tormentor by renting a studio apartment for himself.
While still trying to fulfill his duties to his boss, who is demanding fresh blood --- preferably from nuns or cheerleaders --- Renfield hangs out in a local bar waiting to capture Dracula’s next meal. Meanwhile, a New Orleans Police Department traffic cop, Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), is pursuing Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz), son of Ella (Shohreh Aghdashloo), a well-connected mob boss.
When Teddy and his crew seek out Quincy at the same bar, Renfield, whose supernatural powers are fueled by insects, steps in to fend off her attackers. As Dracula’s newest desire to dominate the world spins out of control --- and he teams up with Ella --- Renfield and Quincy realize they must find a way to annihilate the vampire forever.
RENFIELD is one gory, bloody scene after another. Protracted fight scenes produce buckets of the red stuff along with limbs and guts galore. But despite all that, director Chris McKay’s efforts are mostly amusing and highly entertaining. The story by Robert Kirkman and screenplay by Ryan Ridley are fairly well conceived, though there could have been more humor, especially with Awkwafina, who is sorely underutilized.
What makes RENFIELD truly enjoyable is the interaction between Hoult and Cage. They are divinely cast and play off one another well. Cage is the perfect Dracula, while Hoult is incredibly engaging as the put-upon, long-suffering slave to the narcissistic blood guzzler. Whichever character he’s playing, Peter III of Russia in “The Great” or Tyler in THE MENU, his comedic timing is flawless. He’s been a personal favorite of mine since he portrayed Kenny in A SINGLE MAN opposite Collin Firth.
David isn’t as enamored with RENFIELD as I, probably because he was snoozing. But hey, what does he know anyway? If you’re a Cage or Hoult fan, this is a good bet for you.
Opinion: See It Now!
There have been at least five previous movies with the words “bucket of blood” as part of the title, and RENFIELD could have been called THE MOST BUCKETS OF BLOOD EVER SEEN. But that might discourage fans of Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult from seeing this campy outing.
Cage plays Count Dracula with his usual over-the-top relish accompanied by two rows of razor-sharp teeth. Hoult plays Robert Montague Renfield, Dracula’s familiar --- i.e., his servant for untold decades --- somehow maintaining a straight face as he tries to free himself of his unsavory duties.
RENFIELD is Hoult’s follow-up to his last film, THE MENU, also a dark comedy but a lot less gory. Add in Awkwafina as a traffic cop named Rebecca Quincy with whom Renfield falls in love, and we have the ingredients for a humorous story.
This film is not for the squeamish unless one accepts that the fake blood that gushes as heads explode and limbs are ripped off is just that --- fake. It is all so absurd you can only laugh about it. I suspect that the filmmakers ordered fake blood in 55-gallon drums to complete the movie. Actually, the visual effects are very well done.
What’s more disgusting than the blood are the bugs that Renfield must consume to compete with the all-powerful Dracula. In one scene, he devours a bunch of creepy insects only to smile and we see that they have stuck in his teeth. And you thought broccoli was bad.
Who among us hasn’t had a boss we wish would just go away? But Count Dracula is a different animal --- he’s called immortal for a reason. And Renfield desperately wants to be finished as Dracula’s loyal servant. The final scene is memorable.
Other cast notables include Ben Schwartz as Teddy Lobo and veteran Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo as his mother, Ella. They have their own agenda as mobsters. Aghdashloo has a glorious deep voice, perfect for this role. It’s no surprise why she has done so many voice- overs in her career.
If there’s a lesson in RENFIELD it might be to follow your dreams and never give up on yourself. If you’re curious about this film but are worried about the gore, don’t be. It’s simply buckets of fun. The constant stream of F-bombs might be more objectionable --- nah, that’s funny as well.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!