“Renfield” review: Horrible yet hauntingly fun



Nicolas Cage (left) and Nicholas Hoult lead in Chris McKay’s comedy “Renfield.” The film is the latest adaptation of the novel “Dracula.”

With soul-sucking tropes and wonderfully biting humor, “Renfield” lurks in the shadows of the so-bad-it’s-good subgenre of movies. There is no denying that the film is as awful as it is hilarious, but its gleeful absurdity lets the audience giggle as much as they groan. Luring you in with a cheesy voiceover and the saddest looking Nicholas Holt since “Skin’s” second season, “Renfield” takes a stab at being a successful oddball comedy. 

The film follows Renfield, the personal assistant to Dracula, as he attempts to take control of his life for the better. When he finds himself caught up in a crime family’s drama, Renfield teams up with stubborn traffic cop Rebecca Quincy, played by Awkwafina, to rid New Orleans of evil, supernatural or not. The path to freedom gets a little bloodier though as the duo fights corruption, codependency and, worst of all, a cocaine-fueled Ben Schwartz. 

“Renfield” will not be everyone’s vein of humor. The dialogue is terrible, the editing is frantic, and the plot is absolutely batty. Yet, it works. The film’s saving grace is that nothing about it can be taken seriously, allowing the audience to revel in its stupidity. For the easy one and a half hour runtime, you are free to cackle at horrible jokes and gasp at gory fight scenes, worrying only that the movie is fun and not if it’s “good.”

Using the pairing of Dracula and his familiar, there is a campy — or perhaps ‘vampy’ — attempt at a metaphor for abusive relationships that is somehow not completely terrible. Support groups, self-help books and affirmations shouted like battle cries almost add depth to an otherwise wobbly plot. While the humorous aspects of this do its job to keep you entertained, anything worthwhile past that in regards to meaningful themes is shrouded in uncertainty. 

The dialogue does not just hit you over the head with its lack of subtlety. Rather, the severity of it fully stakes you through the heart. Every plot point is explicitly stated in a horribly written one liner delivered with a laughable graveness. You can barely keep a straight face when any of the star-studded cast opens their mouth, but it helps add more goofiness to an already bad movie. If you wanted a great script, maybe you should have set your expectations differently when you watched the trailer. 

There is a hilarious intensity in every performance that perfectly contrasts the absurdity of the narrative. Nicolas Cage’s oddity makes for the perfect Dracula, Awkwafina is giving every cop show a run for their money, and Ben Schwartz continues to prove his ghoulishly comedic talent. In theory, the seriousness of this star-studded cast seems to be fighting for this year’s Academy Awards, but in practice, it comes off as the highest budget daytime soap opera ever. The cast takes “Renfield” from a bizarre B-movie to a horror comedy worth seeing.

The best part of the movie are the action sequences, which rival “John Wick” in bloodshed and captivating violence. If you have ever wanted to see Nicholas Holt rip a guy’s arms off and impale someone else with them, this is the movie for you. If that was not something on your bucket-list, heed the R-rated warning. The fighting is just as wacky as every other aspect of this movie but it succeeds in keeping the energy up amid eye rolling dialogue.  

“Renfield” puts a lighthearted spin on a horror classic, letting you laugh with and at the vampy themes. What it lacks in nuance or cinematic flair it makes up for in jaw-dropping action sequences and easy laughs that turn a ridiculous movie into a bloody good time. “Renfield” is not a perfect movie, but it never tries to be. Instead, it allows its own stupidity to be the driving force behind a messy plot with a satisfying watch.