|Directed by:||Chris McKay|
|Written by:||Ryan Ridley, Robert Kirkman|
|Starring:||Nicholas Hoult, Akkadian, Nicolas Cage, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, Shohreh Aghdashloo|
|Released:||May 25, 2023|
As proven by the mockumentary television series What We Do in the Shadows, there’s a place in the world for vampire comedies. There’s nothing flash about the storyline but Renfield allows its three stars, Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy), Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas), and Awkwafina (The Farewell) to showcase their comedic talents and generate well-earned laughs. They’re having fun and that vibe is imparted onto the audience.
Hoult plays the title character of Renfield, a one-time real estate agent who, many decades ago, took up the opportunity to be Count Dracula’s (Cage) submissive assistant. When Dracula wants to go on a “blood sucking bender”, it’s Renfield who tends to his needs – getting his cape dry cleaned and finding unsuspecting victims for him to feed up. The “Prince of Darkness” has a penchant for happy couples, tourists, nuns, and cheerleaders. He has no issue with diversity either. He’s quick to point out that he’ll joyously suck the blood from either a man or a woman.
Dracula has largely kept a low profile (he hides out in an abandoned hospital in New Orleans) but with new ambitions for world domination (people can either be followers or food), Renfield has decided to pull the rip cord. Just like a bad, one-sided relationship, he wants to break away from Dracula’s control and start a new life for himself with colourful clothes, a tidier hairstyle, a decorated studio apartment… and yes, a job where he doesn’t have to kill people. He also finds romance with Rebecca (Awkwafina), a lowly ranked traffic cop who is seemingly the only uncorruptible person within the police force.
There’s a subplot involving a much-feared crime family headed by a ferocious matriarch (Aghdashloo) and her not-so-competent son (Schwartz) but it doesn’t add much. Renfield is at its best when the three lead characters are venting about their bizarre troubles and, keeping their faces as straight as possible, bouncing jokes off each other. Hoult’s character attends a self-help group for co-dependent relationships which also serves as an opportunity for humour.
Fitting the film’s comedic tone, director Chris McKay goes for outlandish, over-the-top gore as opposed to something more graphic and sinister. Based on the audience reactions at my preview screening, the loudest laughs are saved for unexpected moments where heads explode and blood is splattered over everyone and everything (okay, I’ll admit this isn’t for the squeamish).
Underperforming at the box-office when released in the United States last month, Renfield isn’t a game changer but it’s still an entertaining watch for its concise 93 minutes.