Renfield (2023)

Renfield (2023)

A better parable for codependency than it is a vampire comedy

7.1

Movie

Japan, United States of America
English, Thai
Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
2023
CHRIS MCKAY
Adrian Martinez, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz
93 min

TLDR

Can't help but imagine all this befalling my toxic ex.

What it's about

Meet Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), Dracula's (Nicolas Cage) long-term henchman who undergoes a spiritual awakening thanks to a policewoman named Rebecca (Awkwafina) and suddenly wants out of the toxic relationship with his boss.

The take

One wouldn't expect to see Count Dracula's youthful-looking helper at your local 12-step self-help group for people in codependent relationships, but Renfield holds more than one surprise up its sleeve. By translating the working relationship (or master-slave, since the latter doesn't get any pay) into the vocabulary of common relationship counselling parlance, the film actually elevates its symbolic status. Even more, I'd dare call it a hoot. Not that many vampire films have managed to make a proper comedy out of the figure in question, and Renfield with its simplistic appeal puts to shame even the artsy Netflix production El Conde, which also came out earlier this year. With Awkwafina in the mix and iconic lines such as "I don't want your murder cookies", how can you resist?

What stands out

Nicolas Cage... uncaged! His sleek, icky Dracula is perfectly Mephistophelian: an occasional wink, a wide grin showing his grimy, razor-sharp teeth, and the manners, oh the manners! Enter a truly funny villain. There's this ongoing joke that Cage never misses in his roles, and even when he does, he doesn't, but films like Renfield really show the full spectrum of his character transformations. Yes, the prostheses are impressive, his green-grey skin perfectly toned, the cape – leather and elegant, but what he does with gestures, tilts of the head, and line delivery is purely exquisite. Oh, and his ring collection, I want that. His presence even manages to rub off poor Hoult here, who can barely string two convincing sentences in a role. At least one Nic got it right. 

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