It feels like a long time since we had a really good vampire film, doesn’t it? Many, of course, will point to the Twilight Saga as filling the void in that respect: the hugely successful franchise became a worldwide phenomenon and made superstars of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart but it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s brilliant comedy What We Do In The Shadows and its equally impressive small-screen version have also given us a healthy dose of fangs and blood while Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive took a more serious route into the lore.
But none have re-explored the greatest vampire of them all: Nosferatu, Vlad the Impaler, The Count, whatever guise you prefer, we are talking, of course, of Dracula, the greatest big bad of literature. And when news broke about a new film featuring him and that he would be played by Nicolas Cage, excitement was high and, thankfully, the synergy of those two distinct characters is what makes Renfield so exciting on the page.
Indeed, it isn’t just Cage’s name that adds some real heft to the film: as the titular character, Nicholas Hoult continues his ascension up the Hollywood ladder after his brilliant recent work in The Menu, The Great, and The Favourite to name a few. Awkwafina has become a real talent, too, with her unique comedic chops helping to make Jumanji: The Next Level and Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings so enjoyable, as does the inclusion of Sonic himself, Ben Schwartz, as the film’s drug-lord “baddie”. At the helm is Chris McKay who has enjoyed success with The Lego Batman Movie and Robot Chicken before his step into live-action with sci-fi extravaganza The Tomorrow War.
All in all, a fantastic cast for an often fantastic film but, sadly, for all the quality behind Renfield, it never quite pulls together to make a satisfying whole. That isn’t to say it is not enjoyable as, for large parts of the film, it is a hoot, not least thanks to Cage and his otherworldly talents. Many years ago, the Oscar winner had made Vampire’s Kiss which he considered his “laboratory” to push himself as a thespian into different extremes, and he gets to take it one step further as he revels in the dark humour and eccentric characteristics of the dark one. Truly, he has a ball.
Hoult provides solid support and McKay’s frenetic direction elevates the horror, gore, and comedy well but the idea wears thin quite quickly with the laughs becoming more sporadic and the viscera exploding across the screen becoming tiresome. Still, with the horror genre soaring high in recent years – more than ever – Renfield has enough to keep fans enthralled throughout with all that Cage-ness sprinkled on top for good measure.
Comedy, Horror, Action | 2023 | Universal Pictures | In cinemas April 14th | 15 | Dir: Chris McKay | Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, Shohreh Aghdashloo