Review: Renfield

Score: B+

Director: Chris McKay

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Nicolas Cage

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rated: R

Renfield marks the third film from Universal in the past six months to deliver exactly what was promised: a gory comedy that doesn't overstay its welcome. Though they all hail from different directors with wildly different premises, Violent Night and Cocaine Bear and now this film are all funny and extremely violent. That may not be your idea of a fun night at the movies, but none could be accused of false advertising.

Chris McKay, mostly known for his success in the animated world, presents the most polished film of the three: a blood-soaked, energetic romp that's frequently hysterical. And while I wouldn't necessarily call it an emotionally rich film, it doesn't treat its characters' motivations and weaknesses as jokes or tossed-off details.

Nicholas Hoult turns in another strong performance as the titular familiar, trapped in a "toxic relationship" with Dracula (Nicolas Cage). Ready to leave behind his life of luring victims to their deaths, he seeks out support at a self-help group. These scenes provide the biggest laughs that aren't tied into the shock of seeing dismemberment and gallons of blood.

After defending a restaurant from an attack by armed mercenaries, he falls in love with Rebecca (Awkwafina), the only cop in New Orleans who's not corrupt. His newfound confidence and budding romance gives Renfield the push he needed to move out. But left alone, Dracula partners up with a local crime family headed by Bella (Shoreh Aghdashloo) and her failson Teddy (Ben Schwartz). The inevitable standoff provides personal stakes. It's also much stronger than subplots about Rebecca's sister and Drac's plans for world domination.

But of course the reason to see the film is Cage's performance. He's on a roll after the brooding Pig and the meta comedy of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. 100 percent committed to the role, he plays it exactly as menacing or goofy as the scene requires. He's aided by an absolutely top-notch make-up department, who deserve an Oscar for their work.

Renfield may not be the most sophisticated retelling of Dracula lore, but it definitely delivers a bloody good time.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.