Everyone is well aware of the legendary Count Dracula, the infamous vampire that ruled over Transylvania stalking the night to suck the blood from the innocent. However, many don’t know about Dracula’s codependent, R.M. Renfield, so seeing a spin-off about Dracula’s assistant (or by the film’s logic, a familiar) would be a unique change of pace. Instead, what we are gifted with is a trite, unfunny horror comedy that doesn’t take advantage of its central concept.
From the very premise alone of Renfield wanting to start anew and abandon his vampiric master’s wishes to find his true purpose in the world is an interesting idea that Ridley and Kirkman thought would’ve worked on paper establishing a story about toxic relationships. Unfortunately all of that potential is undermined by the central plot of the film which is this formulaic, sporadic narrative of the poorly-casted Awkwafina as a traffic cop tries to get law-enforcement to engage in case of taking down a family of New Orleans drug lords led by an obnoxious enforcer played by Ben Schwartz, and the mob matriarch portrayed by Shoreh Aghdashloo.
Casting-wise, Nicholas Hoult hauls in a legitimately solid performance as R.M. Renfield as he harbors the characteristics of his counterpart from the 1930s, which makes up for solid ‘fish-out-of-water’ elements of him trying to adapt to the modern world and communicate well to the characters that he encounters. There’s not much to say about Nicolas Cage as Dracula as it is your basic, over-the-top that many have been accustomed to for a long time. But it’s not the kind of Nic Cage performance that is well-directed enough for him to unleash his zaniness where it’s appropriate, it’s one where it comes across as the directors told him to do whatever he wanted on screen while pretending to be Dracula.
The movie is also advertised as a horror/comedy combining practical and visual effects for its over-exaggerated violence. Sometimes, you get some cool kills that show how cool they can utilize the practical effects, but then there would be scenes in which any time someone is dismembered, CGI gore will manifest and take you out of the scene entirely.
But one thing is that The film doesn’t know what kind of rules it wants to establish or what kind of vampire Dracula is. Why does digesting bugs and spiders give Renfield ungodly superpowers? Who knows, the movie sure doesn’t tell you. Why does the blood from certain individuals taste wretched according to Dracula, but with other people it’s perfectly fine? And apparently, you can find ancient spells that are used to trap a vampire in a protection circle just by looking it up on Tumblr. What are the odds of that happening?
Even with its unique concept, Renfield misses a bunch of opportunities on a script that lacks an identity, has questionable logic within the film’s rules, and entertainment value that saps the investment and joy one could have. With no pun being intended, Renfield just plain sucks.
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