A missed opportunity - 4/10

by Jad Sammour

There’s not much* to say about Renfield as the film itself amounts to not much good, a handful of bad, and a lot of missed opportunities.

The first thing to address here is Nicholas Cage as Dracula: the best thing in the film! He built his portrayal of the character based on Bela Lugosi’s interpretation of Dracula and made it his own. His performance was both scary at points and highly entertaining. Every time he was on screen, he stole the show! His chemistry with Nicholas Hault was good and it was sad to see the filmmakers not giving them a lot of screen time together and not fleshing out their relationship. We do get a few good scenes of both of them but what the film shows feels just the necessary amount to move over to the B-plot or whatever you want to call it: Awkafina’s section which was bad and formulaic. Awkwafina is okay, and her character is very superficial and simple. Ben Schwartz as Lobo was fine. I won’t bother talking about other characters because they’re very caricaturist and overly forgettable.

The main issue in this film was the choice to get a compelling and absurd story about Renfield wanting to be free from Dracula – which this film, in its first act, almost sets off on the right foot - and mixing it with the plot of every bad summer buddy-cop action/comedy, utilizing the same bad character cut-outs and the same formulaic and predictable story. This marriage didn’t work out and sucked the intrigue out of this film, as it hovered between two radically different stories that, even though they converge into one story, remain alien and forced. Renfield and Dracula’s scenes together are the bare minimum to get the plot going and instead of having fun with the concept of a familiar wanting to be free of his master and take their time to show multiple attempts and a lot hesitancy, the film prioritizes Renfield and Rebecca’s (Awkwafina) story. The filmmakers barely scratched the surface of making a beautiful comedy about a servant slowly realizing he can be free, leading to him getting the courage to speak up to his master and ultimately be free. What made this ten times sadder, is the fact that the talent is there and we see glimpses of what it could’ve been to have a good version of this film.
And one last thing about the script, is the voice-overs which were misused, especially telling things the audience would’ve enjoyed seeing, or seeing more of.

The comedic aspect of this film is a hit and miss. I got some good chuckles here and there but nothing genuinely funny. The physical comedy barely worked. The action scenes on the other hand, were fun and utilized the “powers of Dracula” in a good way until they got a little excessive. The added blood was annoying: there’s a lot of blood splatters added in post-production that 1) looked bad, 2) were forced in, 3) you see a gratuitous amount of blood that doesn’t get on people which took me out of the film sometimes – at one point Renfield crushes a person and a fountain of blood explodes from him but Renfield is almost clean and the dead person’s body looks intact. Furthermore, the editing and cinematography choices that were made to shoot and assemble the action were distracting: fast cuts, lots of close-ups, and shaky camera movement that do not allow you to properly follow the action.

I did like the over-the-top orchestral score which fit the film’s atmosphere and slightly absurd situations. I also liked the colors (green and orange) in many scenes.

Overall, Renfield makes for a forgettable action horror(?) comedy that is slightly entertaining and doesn’t overstay its 93-minute runtime, and it just leaves you with the sad realization that it could’ve been a much better film that properly utilizeS its talent: Nicholas Cage and Nicholas Hault.

Watch “What We Do in the Shadows”, the film and the TV show; they achieve everything Renfield tried to do (minues the drug cartel side-plot of course) and a hundred times better.

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