Move over, Dracula.
The Transylvania terror has starred in countless books, movies, and television shows, but now his bug-eating slave, Renfield, gets the star treatment.
Renfield, in theaters everywhere this week, is the story of a hapless man who becomes the slave of the villain whose name is synonymous with horror. The good news is that Nicolas Cage successfully pulls off his interpretation of the evil monster from Transylvania.
Shown in various stages of decay and horrible health, Cage did not vamp up (excuse the expression) or camp up the character, instead playing it seriously.
The other actors in the movie do more than their share of mayhem, which is so over-the-top at times it more closely resembles cartoon violence. It’s Itchy and Scratchy come to life.
The most likeable and effective player in the serio-comedy is Nicholas Hoult as Robert Montague Renfield. He’s the film’s most relatable character, outshining his semi-love interest, a tough New Orleans cop played by Awkwafina. Her performance is passable, but she is hard to accept as a Dirty Harriet cop who can take on a gang of mobsters single-handed.
She is an important character in the film, helping Renfield break away from Dracula and his demand for victims to quench his bloodthirst. Throw in a gang of ruthless mobsters that want to use Dracula and you have roughly 90 minutes of blood and brutality.
Renfield also taps into the public’s thirst for superhero action as Renfield now gains “super-powers” of a sort from eating insects. In the original Bram Stoker novel, Dracula only allowed Renfield to eat bugs until he proved worthy of the vampiric gift. Renfield appeared in the 1940s Dracula films, which Cage re-creates in gorgeous black and white at the start of the film, and had several stints in his own comic book.
Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman wrote the story for Renfield and acts as producer, which accounts for the snappy dialogue.
Iranian-born actress Shoreh Aghdashloo, with her deep, throaty voice, is fearsome as the matriarch of the New Orleans crime family that wants to use Dracula to cement their control over the city. Her son, Tedward, (played by Ben Schwartz), is a psychopath who is as incompetent as he is evil. They have a nice mother-and-son interplay throughout the film.
The rest of the movie is populated by dozens of familiar faces from television and film playing crooks and crooked cops, filling out the need for mindless murder.
The film is justifiably rated R, not for sex but for blood and gore. It’s not going to make anyone’s career, but will be remembered as a well-done spoof of the horror genre.
And who doesn’t like Nicolas Cage?