Quick synopsis: Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) wants to escape his life of servitude to Dracula (Nicholas Cage). Dracula is less than thrilled with this prospect.
If you look at the cast of Renfield you get a good indication of the tone: Awkwafina (she’s a genius), Ben Schwartz (he’s the WOOOOORST), and of course, the two Nicks; Cage and Hoult. That alone tells you that this will not be an intense character study. It’s going to be fun(ny), it’s going to be as subtle as a crowbar to the nuts, and it’s going to be weird. This feels destined to be a cult movie, it’s ultra-violent but in a weirdly “Rated 15” way, and has a lot of fun moments. If you’re a fan of the Dracula mythos, particularly the cinematic depictions then you’re going to find a lot of fun references to appreciate in this. Some of the references are very obvious; with the director changing the filming style to show an obvious homage to the 1931 depiction. Whereas some are more subtle, depending on musical cues and mannerisms. Cage’s Dracula is obviously based on the performance of Christopher Lee, and you couldn’t ask for someone more bombastically perfect than Cage.
I’ve seen some criticism that Cage isn’t in it enough, with people saying he should have had more focus than Hoult’s character of Renfield. I feel that’s an entirely subjective viewpoint, and people are just critiquing a film for not being exactly what they think it should be. It’s obvious this film is going to be about the character of Renfield, it’s literally the title. I actually like the character’s interactions with Awkwafina’s Rebecca Quincy. There’s a nice warmth to their interactions. Awkwafina is a great choice for the foul-mouthed idealistic ball of energy, playing well off Hoult’s more deadpan and “seen it all before” world-weariness.
Cage isn’t in Renfield much (the film, not the title character), that is true. But the shadow of his character looms over the narrative heavily, with his relationship with Renfield coming off more like an abusive relationship. That’s not accidental by the way, it’s flat-out stated in the dialogue that it’s like an abusive relationship. It’s a really smart choice and allows for some good laughs which are only possible in this film. The fight scenes are also full of unique moments, featuring set pieces and stunts which you’re not likely to see in lots of other media. I do appreciate how they didn’t just mine the “Big Book Of Action Set Pieces and Jokes” for this, they thought of unique moments and lines and then put them in, it shows that they actually put the effort in.
Now onto the downside; I wasn’t a fan of a moment near the end. The main characters bring back to life a number of characters who were slaughtered by Dracula earlier in the film. My issues: why only them? A lot of characters die, and not many get brought back. Also, it kind of minimizes their deaths and the potential emotional impact they had. It doesn’t even really seem worth it, if you deleted the resurrections then you wouldn’t miss them from the narrative. It just feels like it was done to end the film on a slightly lighter note and give the good characters a “happy” ending. It’s a shame as there are some parts of the ending which I love. What they do with Dracula’s body is hilariously twisted and brilliant, the definition of necessary overkill (yes, I know that seems like a contradiction but trust me).
So, in summary, I would recommend this, it’s a lot of fun and even if you don’t like it you’re likely to be amused throughout. Plus it teaches us a very important life lesson; you can use cocaine to solve your problems.