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.