Renfield Review

When it comes to the quality of humor in Renfield, the ska’s the limit. There are lame jokes about how ska music sucks. The impression I get from this horror comedy is they could’ve let Nicolas Cage vamp as Dracula for an hour and a half and it would’ve been better. It wouldn’t take much as this is a mighty, mighty letdown.

Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has been the servant to Cage’s Dracula for over 100 years and he’s finally ready to hang it up. The decades old duo now reside in subterranean New Orleans. The famed vampire depends on his employee for victims to gorge on. The more innocent they are (he requests a busload of cheerleaders or group of nuns), the more power he has. Renfield, meanwhile, stays nourished by feasting on bugs. His emotional nourishment comes from a 12-step group focused on co-dependency.

If this concept sounds like a clever angle on this oft told story, it is. Director Chris McKay and screenwriter Ryan Ridley can’t figure out how to make it enjoyable. Much of the runtime takes the light away from Cage, whose performance is easily the strongest. Instead we get a yawn inducing main plot teaming Renfield up with Awkwafina’s determined bayou cop Rebecca. She’s trying to bring down the Lobo crime family led by matriarch Bellafrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and hotshot son Teddy (Ben Schwartz). That storyline is filled with wretched overacting (not the glorious kind that Cage brings) with the Lobo’s as the worst offenders. There are shades of Eddie Murphy’s middling (but better) Vampire in Brooklyn in the Mob business. Awkwafina, on the other hand, underplays her part. It’s almost as if she’s not there. The script barely attempts romantic sparks between her and Renfield and there’s a family dynamic involving her FBI agent sister that is completely tacked on. I suspect her sibling might have had a larger role in the original draft and was cut. Hoult is a talented performer in need of a sharper role.

The action sequences are sloppily shot and edited though if it’s spurting blood you want, your thirst might be occasionally quenched. Cage is game and provides some laughs, but he’s trapped in the rubbish. Does this come off as a giant missed opportunity? No doubt.

*1/2 (out of four)

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