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Renfield (Action, Comedy) [Based on Novel] (2023) 

Director: Chris McKay
Writer: Ryan Ridley, Robert Kirkman, Ava Tramer, 
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Nora Lum (Awkwafina), Ben Schwartz

Having served an infamous vampiric count for nearly a hundred years, a faithful assistant has developed a weariness for his eternal servitude and decides to step out of his master’s shadow.

Premiering at the Overlook Film Festival, McKay’s feature is inspired by Bram Stoker’s ‘’Dracula’’ novel in addition to the 1931 film of the same name. Yet, instead of laying the focus on the bloodthirsty count, it looks at his assistant, Robert Montague Renfield. Having seen significant time in production, intended as a far different film, to be included in a shared universe with 2014’s ‘’Dracula Untold’’ and 2017’s ‘’The Mummy’’ each of which was deemed a commercial failure; thus ‘’Renfield’’ became its own entity. The comedic take on the notorious villain was inspired by Taika Waititi’s ‘’What We Do in the Shadows’’. Filming took in New Orleans in 2022, and it was produced by Skybound Entertainment and Giant Wildcat, with distribution handled by Universal Pictures.

As the servant and familiar of Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage). Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) provides his eternal master with fresh victims to regain his strength as a recent encounter with vampire hunters burns him to a crisp. Also imbued with powers of his own, Renfield has the ability to consume insects for temporary bursts of supernatural energy. In search of his latest victim, the dutiful assistant stumbles across a self-help group, realising his situation could be described as an unhealthy co-dependent relationship. His ever-demanding lord is less pleased and intends to crush these new-found hopes and dreams before they settle.

The Best Part of 'Renfield' is the Retro Look at Dracula | by Mike  Szymanski | MediumThe ever-living vampire lord, immortalised by decades gracing the silver screen, is transformed into a satirical version with Nicolas Cage in the role. Thus, a bloodcurdling story becomes a combination of  ‘’What We Do in the Shadows’’ and ‘’Guns Akimbo’’.

From a narrated introduction, even re-imagining a classic scene from the 1931 picture ‘’Renfield’’ shifts course. Instead of the grim and ominous Dracula and his shifty and deranged assistant, we’re treated to a resonance completely distancing itself from the source. This perspective carries, and Renfield guides himself towards, a lighter path, just like the film itself, although with immense bloodshed and action-packed sequences. 

Renfield review: a violent, forgettable horror comedy | Digital TrendsAn invasion of Dracula’s manor quickly sets the table, granting an amuse-bouche of violence. Then, as Renfield and his now frail master flee to New Orleans, Awkwafina’s Rebecca is introduced. A cop intent on being more than a glorified traffic stop. She’s allowed her wish while chasing a lead on the Lobo crime family, meeting Dracula’s assistant in a restaurant as the Lobos cause havoc in an entrée. This sumptuous meal provides patches of shadow and moments in the sun with intensity and plenty-a-chuckle, even if there’s some inconsistency during the main course. 

From the ever-so-demanding Cage as Dracula to the doubtful, slowly emancipating assistant in Hoult’s Renfield, there’s enough to provide butts in seats. An outrageous comedy, always moving, forcing you to covet the next set piece. If there’s anything to scoff at, it would be the less-interesting crime elements despite an ever-beguiling Shohreh Aghdashloo performance in addition to Awkwafina, who’ll be a hit-or-miss for some. Intertwining those intrinsic elements of ‘’Renfield’’ more and keeping the focus on the supernatural might’ve proved a better film. Yet, 
Polished Cage features are rare, and while ‘’Renfield’’ might not be the all-time best, it shadows most other features the acclaimed cult hero has been in.

Keep me hooked up to this blood bag; that’ll keep me satiated for some time.