Horror Movie Review: Renfield (2023)

Renfield is a horror comedy film that was directed by Chris McKay, releasing in 2023. The film stars Nicholas Hoult, playing the role of the titular character Renfield. Also, there’s Nicolas Cage as Dracula which is something I never thought I’d say but here we are.

Transylvanian vampire Count Dracula meets English lawyer R. M. Renfield. Renfield hopes to broker a deal for some land and after proving to be a useful assistant, he ends up becoming Dracula’s familiar, allowing him to be immortal and gaining super strength and speed when he consumes bugs.

Ninety years later, Renfield has grown weary and exhausted of bringing victims to Dracula as well as the latter’s abuse. Renfield discovers a 12-step self-help group for persons in co-dependent relationships. He plans to hunt out the group’s abusive lovers so he can kill and give them to Dracula to feast on without feeling remorse. By following one to a warehouse with stolen drugs, Renfield is confronted by several criminals before they are all attacked by an assassin hired by the rival Lobo crime family.

After killing the assassin, Renfield unsuccessfully attempts to hunt down the man who hired him. A weakened Renfield drags the corpses back to Dracula’s lair in the basement of the dilapidated Hospital. Dracula tells Renfield that the criminals he has brought as food are insufficient, and that the vampire desires the blood of someone pure and innocent instead.Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Leader of the lobos, Bellafrancesca, hunts down the man who killed her foot soldiers, and he ends up encountering Dracula when Renfield is away. The two agree to form an alliance while Renfield has taken to heart the teachings of his self-help group and decides to make a life for himself apart from his master. Setting up an apartment and changing his attitude to one of helpfulness, Renfield gives a statement to the police to help them try to finally stop the Lobos. However, Dracula learns of Renfield’s betrayal and slaughters the support group members in front of his former minion.

With the help of the Lobos, Dracula intends to create an army of familiars that he will use to conquer the world.

Let me just get straight to the point, Renfield was a huge disappointment for me. Firstly, the trailers had me believing that this film was going to lean more heavily towards comedy. Instead, it’s actually fairly serious in nature. As always, Nicolas Cage is undoubtedly the best part of the film. His portrayal of the count is a genuine highlight. However, he is absolutely the villain with no redeeming qualities. I don’t know, I was expecting something different here. I imagined a more loveable, misunderstood Dracula who’s struggling to adapt to modern times. Nope, he’s simply malicious and horrible with no real good reason for it. The concept of looking at the relationship between a familiar and a vampire as a toxic relationship is a great idea. Unfortunately, it’s taken way too seriously here and fails in a number of ways.

We never see a single happy moment between Renfield and Dracula. Was there never any good times between them? Moments of genuine friendship? It appears not. This is the reason why Renfield fails so hard. Why does Renfield stay with Dracula for centuries if it has always been this way? In the film, it doesn’t portray that Dracula has any kind of control over Renfield. There’s a mental link for messages but that’s all. Renfield has received nothing for his service in any way. In other versions, Renfield is shown as more of a slave to Dracula. He’s someone who has no self-control and is addicted to the power that consuming insects give him. In this, he’s practically a normal person.

This leads to another huge issue and that’s the lack of sympathy I felt towards Renfield. It seemed to me that he could have stopped if he truly wanted to. Instead, he has served Dracula and brought him victim after victim. What’s worse is that had Dracula began to show him kindness, he probably wouldn’t have begun to have doubts in the first place.

Additionally, why does Dracula tolerate Renfield at all? He randomly comes to the realisation that he could have as many familiars as he wanted, well duh.

If you want to see this type of scenario done well, go and watch the TV show “What we do in the Shadows”.

I will say, to his credit Nicholas Hoult is really good here. As I said above, Cage gives his all as usual. I found him to be convincing, intimidating and quite scary. I thought the shark like teeth were a nice touch. The same cannot be said for the remaining supporting cast who I have not even mentioned. Awkwafina plays herself and is part of an incredibly forced romance with Renfield. The two actors have zero chemistry so it just falls completely flat. Her character is so poorly written, I almost feel bad. The less said about the other characters the better to be honest. Nothing against their performances though to be fair.

Jeez, can I say something positive now please? The action and gore is a lot of fun! There’s a flashy, explosive nature to it all which is very enjoyable. Seeing Renfield use the insects as a sort of drug that gives him super human abilities was a cool idea. Also, that opening segment in black and white is beautiful. I wish the entire film had been in that style. I suppose, if you turn off your brain completely then there’s some fun to be had, at times. There you go, four whole lines of positivity.

This really could and should have been so much better than it was.




Author

  • Liam Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Typical 90s-00s kid; raised on Pokémon, Final Fantasy & the Attitude Era. In fact, that makes up about 99% of my personality. The remaining 1% is dedicated to my inner rage for people who still don’t understand the ending of Lost or those that enjoyed the Game of Thrones final season. Find me on GBHBL where I’ll most likely be reviewing horror movies or games. Also, see me on our YouTube channel!

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