“Sucks to be him”: A Renfield Review

Move over Dracula, you b(r)at — it’s time to share the limelight. Robert Montague Renfield, it is your time to shine (and not just because of the massive amount of blood you’re covered in.)

    The man, the myth, the legend: Nicolas Cage strolls into the room — top hat, cane and all. His pale lips part to reveal his nasty yellow fangs as he recites, “Some call me the dark one; others, the lord of death. To most, I am simply known as-”

     “Renfield’s boss!”

     That’s right folks… after years and years of good ole’ Count Dracula being the center of attention in countless books, movies, and more, the overshadowed R.M. Renfield has finally gotten his own movie.

     First appearing in the OG Dracula novel by Bram Stoker, Renfield is depicted as a mad but deeply devoted servant (“familiar”) to the Count. He (Renfield) agrees to turn another character into a vampire in exchange for immortality. Renfield believed that the consumption of bugs (and other animals) would give him strength and an extra-long life, which pretty much explains how he ended up in a lunatic asylum.

     Renfield’s first film appearance, however, was in the 1922 silent film, Nosferatu. Then, most notably, he was portrayed by Dwight Frye in the 1931 classic Dracula movie. The sorrowful servant appeared in many Dracula books and movies after that, too. However, he has never been the main subject of a major film…

      …until now. The R-rated comedy horror film Renfield, directed by Chris McKay (also known for The Lego Batman Movie and The Tomorrow War), was released in theaters on April 14th of this year. 

     The plot follows the almost-pitiful Robert Montague Renfield as he tries to leave his line of work and of course, the mayhem he faces when Dracula learns of his decision. He longs for a life independent of his servitude to the Count. And, as you can probably imagine, the Drac-man did not take that very well.

     Starring Nicholas Hoult as Renfield himself, alongside Nicolas Cage as Dracula, I have to address the great acting that made this film. Nicholas Hoult was quite successful at adding depth to this deeply misunderstood character, while simultaneously adding humor into his performance. Not to mention that Nicolas Cage Dracula-ed his heart (or should I say fangs?) out, delivering one of the best (and hilarious) Dracula performances I’ve ever seen.

     The cast of the film also featured Awkwafina as Robert’s love interest, cop Rebecca Quincy, Shohreh Aghdashloo as crime empire leader (we’ll get to that in a minute), Bellafrancesca Lobo, and Ben Schwartz as her son, Teddy Lobo.

     The story itself was alright. Just alright. Somehow, whoever wrote this movie thought it would be great to include a little crime-drama action in there. I know that when I think of Dracula and Renfield, the first thing that comes to mind is a crime drama. Really, who wouldn’t associate gothic vampirism with a cocaine-selling crime empire?

     Fine, in all seriousness, I do get what they were going for. Classic tale tied to the modern world in some way. Clever, maybe, but not the way it was written out here. The plots between Renfield trying to separate from Dracula and Rebecca trying to take down the “Lobos” crime empire just did not mesh well. Though the “Lobos” nod to the classic werewolf vs. vampire was noted (and appreciated) they were a completely unnecessary addition to the film.

     I wished that the movie stuck to the path of more traditional vampire-y films. Renfield already had something unique and different about it: it was about Robert Montague instead of Count Dracula. I understand why they were trying to shift things around, but I ultimately just wanted to see a funny, classic, bloody mess of vampirism that gave more life to a character that has been around for 125 years.

     Renfield received just alright ratings from reviewers and the general public, earning scores of 6.7/10 from IMDb,

58% from Rotten Tomatoes, and 80% from the Rotten Tomatoes audience rating.

     My movie-going partner in crime, Sarah Green, also had some interesting insights into the film: “I thought that it was pretty gory and I wasn’t expecting that. I was hootin’ and hollerin’ at some points because it was real funny. I liked how the Renfield guy, he like, took control of the situation, you know, and became his own person and stood up to the big bad vampire man.” Ditto.

     “Well, how was the movie?” you might be wondering. Well, dear reader, here it is: after careful consideration and a thorough evaluation using my state-of-the-art movie-rating formulas, I gave this movie a generous 7/10. The acting was fantastic, the settings and costumes were great, the cinematography was nice but nothing special, and it was funny. But — the plot is what lost my last 3 points.

   Look — Renfield might not be the next “Best Picture,” but I would still recommend giving it a watch. Renfield is an enjoyable movie that will hopefully provide you with a few well-needed chuckles (and “ew!”s). 

 

That is, if you’re not too scared.

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Jim Marsoobian
Jim Marsoobian
Jim Marsoobian is the editor-in-chief for The Diablo Dispatch. Besides writing, she also loves cats, movies, mysteries, collecting, and listening to music! : )

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