RogerBW's Blog

Renfield 21 November 2023

2023 comedy-horror, dir. Chris McKay, Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina: IMDb / allmovie. What if Dracula's servitor tried to get out from under his thumb?

It's a great idea. Renfield has been dominated by Dracula's charisma, but finally wakes up to the fact that he's being a horrible person serving a worse person, and tries to do something good instead. And Hoult impressed me in Mad Max: Fury Road and the very early Warm Bodies, in both of which he's also a put-upon guy who comes to believe in his own value as a person. Awkwafina plays a cop obsessed with taking down the crime family that killed her father; she was decent in a small part in Ocean's 8. And in more minor roles, we have Nicolas Cage as Dracula (he was the original choice to play him in Shadow of the Vampire until Malkovich turned up), and Shohreh Aghdashloo as the crime boss.

But while there's a very solid cast, we have an original pitch by the guy who co-created The Walking Dead, turned into a script by one of the writers on Rick and Morty, and directed by the guy who directed Robot Chicken. Nothing is ever any more complex than it appears on the surface. There are some potentially interesting concepts but none of them is ever developed.

Also, we get Ben Schwarz as the crime boss's failson; he usually works as a comedian and that's basically what he does here too. Someone as ruthless as his mother is meant to be would have thrown him to the sharks years ago.

Parts of it work even so. Renfield has been going to group therapy sessions on toxic relationships, to locate people's toxic partners and murder them to feed Dracula; but he gradually realises that this applies to him too, that Dracula is using him not only as a servant but to feed his own narcissism. If this film has a message at all, it's "talking out your problems is good".

But there's also a surprising amount of gore, shot in a comedy excess mode, and that didn't work as well for me.

Whenever Cage and Aghdashloo are on screen together, there's a strong sense of "quiet down children, the grown-ups are acting now". Frankly I'd have liked to see more of them and less of the young pretty people. This could have been a great film, but it uses easy action cliché to paper over the lack of thought.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

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  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 10:48am on 21 November 2023

    This film was a total hoot from beginning to end.

    The excessive gore transcends real to create a surreal vision.

    Nicholas Cage acts his socks off, and the rest of the cast are awesome.

    So, five stars from me, and I will have to rewatch it again soon. This has all the markings of becoming a cult classic.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:17am on 21 November 2023

    There are bits I loved, and bits that dragged, but on balance I'd recommend it if you can ignore or enjoy the comedic gore.

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