Renfield  (15) |Close-Film Review

Dir. Chris McKay, US, 2023, 94 mins

Cast:  Nicholas Hoult, Nicholas Cage, Awkwafina, Shohreh Aghdashloo

Review by Carol Allen

As the title tells us Renfield is not your usual Dracula movie, as the central character is the vampire’s loyal, bug eating servant and right hand man (Nicholas Hoult).  

In an original take on the traditional story Renfield has had enough and he wants out.  And in one of the film’s wittier ideas, he turns to a support group for people with co-dependency issues – a tricky one for the group’s leader (Brandon Scott Jones) to support him with. 

Despite it not being his story, Dracula, played by Nicholas Cage, who has long wanted to have a crack at the role that is the Hamlet of horror movies, does tend to dominate a lot of the film.   Although somewhat subdued at first in appearance due to a nasty fire, Cage soon gets the character’s mojo and traditional flamboyant look back, snarling, bullying and chilling our blood in traditional manner while swigging someone else’s.

As well as the therapy group, Renfield finds support and a potential romance with tough cop Rebecca (Awkwafina), who isn’t getting the recognition she deserves from her superiors. And as Renfield looks for escape from his servitude, wannabe tough guy Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwarz) is only too eager to take on the job.  Trouble is though he’s dominated by his mum, New Orleans crime queen Bellafrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo), purring like a panther but ready to pounce.

While a fun concept, the comedy does tend to get somewhat submerged by the gory action.  And the bloodletting isn’t just initiated by Dracula.  In one particular action sequence, fountains of the stuff are spurting, as arms, legs and heads are torn from bodies with reckless abandon and surprising ease, to the extent that at the end of the battle the main characters are climbing down a veritable mountain of body parts.

Hoult and Awkwafina somehow manage to hold their own despite the avalanche of action but it’s Cage’s high octane turn as the big bloodsucker himself who is most memorable. 

So too is Aghdashloo, who has been kept largely busy with television since the memorable Sand and Fog back in 2003.  This lady deserves a big screen lead – and soon.