Throughout his lengthy career of being one of Hollywood’s most endearing whackjobs, Nicolas Cage has played a multitude of roles in a multitude of movies. Be it off-kilter romantic leads, assorted crazies, possessed stunt riders or even eccentric action heroes, the prominent actor has not only done it all, but he’s attacked every role (not including the ones in his “tax troubles” phase, obviously) with the kind of frenzy usually reserved for a pitbull going feral on a particularly irritating chew toy – but there’s one role he’s never tackled: that of literature’s greatest monster, Count Dracula.
Well, Nic fanatics rejoice, because thanks to garish horror/comedy Renfield, the Rage Cage finally gets to slip on the fangs and bring his own, distinct tang to the legend which provides the cherry on top for this immensely likable gore-fest that brings the silly, just as hard as it brings the red stuff.


For ninety years, Renfield has faithfully served Dracula, throughout all his bloodthirsty endeavors, even standing by him when his master’s selfish whims have gotten them both into hot water. Still healing from his most recent near-death encounter, the pair have relocated to New Orleans, but Dracula’s continuous diva-ish treatment of his lowly man-servant has finally led Renfield to question his role in this toxic relationship and caused him to attend self help meetings after scouring them for potential victims.
Torn between his own ebbing sence of self-worth and his master’s brattish demands for virtuous sustenance from random nuns or a bus load of cheerleaders, Renfield inadvertently sets in motion a string of events that sees him end up on the radars of Teddy, the idiot son of the Lobo crime family and frustrated cop Rebecca Quincy.
After numerous attempts to bring Teddy Lobo down, Rebecca has grown despondent with the ridiculous amount of corruption that’s rife in the city, but is given a small branch of hope when Renfield interferes on an attempt on her life. You see, Renfield has been bestowed a small amount of Dracula’s power that sees him gain superhuman abilities once he gobbles down a bug or two and after violently dispatching Teddy’s thugs, both he and Rebecca start up a relationship that gives him the confidence to take his life back.
However, all the decorated apartments, self-help posters and colourful jumpers aren’t enough to save him from Dracula’s confidence obliterating tantrums when the vampire discovers that his familiar plans to abandon him and after Teddy stumbles upon the vampire’s lair, the prince of death comes up with a plan that will see him use the Lobos to usher in a new mindset for the bloodsucking beast – world domination. Can Renfield overcome years of abuse to retake control of his own life?


For those who know, there’s already a world class example of a mismatched, comedy relationship between a vampire and his familiar in the delightful form of Nandor The Relentless and Guillermo who hail from the magnificent TV version of What We Do In The Shadows, but while Renfield doesn’t quite manage to match this overwhelmingly hilarious double act, it’s still a nicely pulsating vein of some over-the-top comedy.
Taking the concept of Dracula’s familiar wanting out of the poisonous symbiosis he’s in with his razor toothed boss, Renfield runs with as fast as it can into the realms of camp comedy that practically feels like a gaudy graphic novel brought to life. Featuring the searing colour-scheme of a Joel Schumacher era Batman movie and the casual, splattery slapstick of a pre big time Peter Jackson, director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, The Tomorrow War) has thrown together a raucous, knockabout comedy that matches it’s rather patchy plot with some great performances that combine to form an impressively fun night out.
Produced by Universal – the home of the “original” Dracula released back in 1931 (sorry Nosferatu) – Renfield is the latest of numerous uneven attempts for the studio to try and capitalize on their Universal Monsters  brand that’s seen such dizzying highs as Leigh Whannell’s radical reworking of the Invisible Man and the sickening lows of Van Helsing and the Tom Cruise Mummy movie that annihilated the Dark Universe franchise before it even began. Thankfully, this likable, goofy comedy manages to take advantage of its central themes well enough to provide a healthy spray of genuine laughs thanks to a trio of solid performances and an abundance of immature violence that coats proceedings in a thick layer of grue.


Central to everything is the irresistible draw of Nicolas Cage portraying a version of Dracula Bram Stoker probably didn’t envision back in 1897 and I’m incredibly glad to say it’s everything I could have hoped for and more. Mincing across the screen while looking like a shark-mouthed Liberace, this Dracula is a vainglorious prick who delivers his withering put downs through a set of jagged fangs while wearing fabulous fashions that evoke what you’d get if Kenneth Williams had played the Danny Huston role in 30 Days Of Night.
Elsewhere, Nicholas Holt gives the emotionally fragile Renfield a heroic centre under his jittery, fuddy-duddy exterior and Awkwafina is once again a refreshingly off-beat female lead who uses that distinct, raspy delivery to great effect, but everyone else seems to get a bit lost in the chaos of gore and guffaws.
If Renfield has an issue, it’s probably that it’s rendered a bit too rambunctious thanks to the inclusion of too much plot. Many of the best moments of the film generally has Renfield exploring the dark humor of finding the familiar toxic beats in such a bizarre couple (the scene where Dracula confronts Renfield in his obnoxiously positive apartment may eventually stand as one of the year’s funniest scenes), however, the inclusion of a plot involving mobsters makes an already busy movie a bit too crammed to breathe. As a result, Ben Schwartz’s asshat mobster and his whole subplot merely serve to noisily distract us from the real meat of the story.


Still, as pumped full as childish exuberance as it is, Renfield is rarely dull thanks to a high hit rate of jokes and some belly laugh inducing violence that take in exploding heads, ripped of arms and people literally exploding on impact. However, it’s the goofy reverence to the history of the two main characters that impact the most, with their backstory lovingly told in the black and white style of Tom Browning’s classic original.
Hardly a mature treatment on toxic relationships, Renfield displays more than enough childish glee to keep the laughs coming and providing in Nic Cage, one of the most memorable portrayal ever of a boss who truly sucks.


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