There’s something really remarkable about Nicolas Cage. It doesn’t matter how stupid the movie he’s in, or how ridiculous the role – he gives it his all every time. The guy simply commits, often to the point of hilarity.
With this in mind, to hear that Cage would be taking on the role of Count Dracula himself was certainly a delight to this reviewer’s ears.
Indeed, he is one of the highlights of the recently released “Renfield”, a darkly humorous horror film centring on the Prince of Darkness himself.
The movie positions itself as a sequel to the 1931 film “Dracula” – yes, almost 100 years later – which itself was based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of the same name.
“Renfield” follows Robert M Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), Dracula’s hapless servant who is bound to care for and feed his vampire lord.
However, after nearly a century of servitude, Renfield has grown tired of being in an abusive relationship and wishes to be liberated from his narcissistic master’s metaphorical shackles.
A chance encounter with a foul-mouthed but well-intentioned policewoman, Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), inspires Renfield to be more than just a grovelling servant.
Hence begins his journey in breaking free from Dracula’s bond, all while trying to avoid the dark one’s wrath.
The film, at its heart, is an action-horror-comedy, and it does its best to balance all three genres. You have fight scenes aplenty, bloody carnage by the gallons, and comedy from the hapless characters reacting to their ridiculous circumstances.
Cage does chew the scenery every time he is onscreen, but he can only do so much to service an overarching plot that, ultimately and unfortunately, isn’t all that inventive.
Renfield wants to be free; Quincy wants to bring the mafia who killed her father to justice. Surely you can foresee how it’s all going to go.
Predictability aside, many of the jokes land well barring the occasional dud, even if Quincy’s potty-mouthed shtick does get old after a while.
And while it might sound unlikely, much of the comedy actually comes from the gorily over-the-top fight scenes. This isn’t a film for kids, folks – it’s rated 18 for a reason!
Heads go flying, arms are ripped off and used to run people through, one man’s upper torso is even completely severed from his lower half. Fun!
Every action sequence shows how dangerous Renfield can be with his supernatural powers (albeit a mere fraction of his master’s); wherever he goes, blood and organs end up splattering on the walls.
Folks with weak stomachs might not enjoy this, but it’s so overdone that it’s hard not to find the gratuitous violence funny, as opposed, say, to another horror film currently screening.
Hoult, who has also been garnering accolades for his ongoing role in the Hulu series “The Great”, injects his character with much-needed humanity, making it easy to root for him.
Much of his connection with Dracula acts as a metaphor for toxic relationships. If you’ve ever been with a controlling partner who turns on you when you displease them, you might relate – to the extent that vampires are relatable – to how Renfield is treated by his master.
In that regard, Dracula is a monster in more ways than one: he drinks blood, sure, but he also manipulates and gaslights, which, perhaps, is the true horror.
One can only hope there are no vampires in this world (though energy vampires are a different matter altogether), but if you happen to be in a relationship with one, you might want to take a leaf out of Renfield’s book and cut loose.
As of press time, ‘Renfield’ is screening in selected cinemas nationwide.