Sink Your Teeth into Laugh Out Loud Dracula Buddy Comedy Film, Renfield (2023)
First Non-Festival Release: April 6, 2023 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Chris McKay
Writer: Ryan Ridley, Robert Kirkman
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Have you ever been around a person that just sucked the life out of you? Nothing was ever good enough, their demands seem impossible, their personality is just grating? It sucks. It can be even worse when you feel tethered to this person.
That is how it feels every day for Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) a familiar, an enslaved human devoted to serving a vampire master, to Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage). One day when searching for Dracula’s next meal, he crosses paths with Rebecca (Awkwafina), a police officer trying her best to bring down a local crime family responsible for killing her father. From there, a sequence of events happens threatening the perceived order and contained chaos of the city.
Goofy buddy-cop vampire comedy Renfield engages with popcorn laughs, frights, and fight scenes.
Outside its fresh take on the tale of Dracula, Renfield explores issues of codependence that especially resonate with younger generations uniquely predisposed to therapy talk. It would be easy to criticize Renfield as a response to the TikTok generation obsessed with labelling things toxic or gaslighting, but the film truly engages with the dynamics that make these types of relationships so sad. Renfield’s entire life revolves around a man [well, a creature, technically] that cares nothing for him. He is there to clean up his messes and keep him alive and healthy. His worth is reduced to nothing on a regular basis and his only source of joy comes from a support group where he scopes out potential targets for Dracula’s meals [the bad people hurting them of course].
The breakthrough happens for Renfield when he meets Rebecca and finally realizes he can change his future. Noticeably, his life improves once he removes himself from Dracula. The audience sees Renfield happy and thriving in his own little way. Of course, this doesn’t please Dracula, who eventually confronts his former slave. Instead of disposing him like he would any other human, Dracula decides to degrade and humiliate him one last time with promises of killing every person Renfield cares about as a punishment for his transgressions. Not only does this perfectly mimic the dynamics of an abusive relationship, Renfield goes above and beyond to show what can counter this fate: strong social support. It’s an admirable piece of commentary in an otherwise breezy horror comedy.
The central relationship of Renfield and Dracula doesn’t get as much screentime as one would think, but it’s the relationship outside of this pairing that bring out the best in the film. Rebecca and Renfield share different goals and attributes that make the other enamored and inspired. Rebecca finds Renfield’s physical abilities and strength exciting, likely after working so long with a powerfully inept and toothless police department. On the other hand, Renfield admires Rebecca’s bravery in the face of danger. By learning from each other, they are both able to face their personal demons and fight the forces that ail each of them.
While the story itself is hilarious at many points, Renfield does tend to make things a bit too easy for its protagonists. There are many moments throughout the film where conveniences make it so the plot can progress rather than actual ingenuity on the part of the protagonists. The fight sequences are particularly egregious. Blows that Renfield take matter far less than what he is dishing out, even when he is on an even playing field with his opponent. Dracula himself isn’t excluded from this narrative either. There are multiple times when both Renfield and Rebecca weasel their way out of death thanks to unrealistic pauses or allowances. This doesn’t ruin the film at all, but it does make it harder to take it seriously when needed.
Strong performances across the cast ensure that the comedic meat of Renfield never gets overcooked. Nicholas Hoult gives an endearing look in into the soul of Dracula’s lackey. His optimism an desire for change make him an easy to root for character as he interacts with the world around him in hilarious ways. Nicholas Cage goes all out to make Dracula a vicious yet comedic persona. Never wavering too far from what the original character represents, his gonzo performance makes Renfield an extremely enjoyable film. Rounding out the cast both Ben Schwartz and Shohreh Aghdashloo give delightfully mischievous villain performances and Awkwafina plays straight rather well outside of a few awkward line deliveries.
Renfield is a thoroughly enjoyable crowd-pleasing horror comedy that is sure to capture hearts this Spring. Great performances, breezy storytelling, and a great breakdown of toxic relationships make this modern spin on Dracula, one worthy of the universe. It may not fully maximize every opportunity, but this laugh-out-loud buddy comedy is the perfect film to turn off your brain and enjoy some explosive vampire action. So come on in, enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to repeat your affirmations!
Overall Score? 7/10