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Renfield doesn’t exactly put a new spin on the Dracula tale, but the picture is surprisingly diverting thanks to a quick-paced plot, over the top cartoon violence and of course a game Nic Cage.

Is casting Nicolas Cage as Count Dracula an inspired choice or is it just lazy casting? It is a little bit of both, as Renfield proves, but there is no denying the leer is a big reason why the film is more fun than you might presume.

Part of the reason is that for most of the picture Dracula himself takes a backseat. Renfield focuses mostly on the titular henchman of the vampire, who comes to the realisation that he has to escape the abusive relationship with his master.

The approach isn't quite novel enough to break with classic vampire lore, but the concept goes a surprisingly long way, helped by a sympethetic Nicholas Hoult performance. The filmmakers might overindulge in gimmicky editing, dryly witty voice-overs and sudden, extreme outbursts of violence but they definitely get bonus points for a loving recreation of parts of Todd Browning's 1931 Dracula in Renfield's opening reel.

As for Cage: the actor doesn't nearly ham it up as much as he can do, which results in a Dracula that definitely leans more to the frightning side than to the campy side. An apt comparison would be Roddy McDowall's turn in Fright Night, who was also smartly used sparingly for maximum effect.

Overall one could say that Renfield is not much more than a footnote in the vampire genre, but at least it's an effortlessly entertaining one.

release: 2023

director: Chris McKay

starring: Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina, Shohreh Aghdashloo


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