Director: Chris McKay
Date Created: 2023-04-14 00:00
Renfield’s world revolves around his very popularly toxic and controlling boss, the infamous Dracula.
“My needs are the only need that matters, servant.”Dracula
Even the support group that Renfield joins for people struggling in codependent relationships was simply a place for him to find human blood for his master.
Traditionally a side character, only known as Renfield in Dracula’s story, the perspective has shifted and now it’s Dracula in Renfield’s story.
In the movie Renfield, Robert Montague Renfield takes back control of his life so much so that he even enunciates his full government name several times throughout the movie.
He rocks an anti-Dracula wardrobe with pastel geometric sweaters from Macy’s to match his brightly colored studio apartment. And he uses his bug-fueled powers to protect innocent people.
Renfield in Dracula | Movie Review
This simple narrative concept of Renfield distancing himself from Dracula and becoming his own person is intercepted by another storyline regarding a long-time feud between a stealthy mafia gang and a fed-up cop (Awkwafina) who’s determined to take the gang down.
As new subplots enter the picture, you may begin to wonder where this film is going and question if you still want to follow along with the narrative, but stick around, it gets better.
All the little details come back around to mean something leaving you with a full-circle, airtight, surprisingly quite good story.
Here are three elements of the story that stand out the most:
1. The Blood
It wouldn’t be a vampire movie without a little blood. Well, in this case, A LOT of blood. This film is swimming in the Red Sea after Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go.
The best visual I can give for the excessive, exaggerated, superfluous excess of blood is ketchup sprinklers.
If you punch a guy too hard in the head, you set off the ketchup sprinklers in his now disconnected neck nub.
The obvious fakeness of it all resembles a cult classic. Like when something is so bad it becomes – almost good.
The sauce-like blood seems to be an obviously intentional artistic choice. The point of the blood wasn’t to scare people or cause nightmares. It felt more like a tool for amusement. For people to go “Woah, that’s strange.” Rather than “Woah, I think I’m gonna faint.”
The outlandish display of guts and gore played into the bloody vampire theme and reminds you that this is supposed to be a horror movie.
It’s like a statement piece on the mantle of this film. A highlight. A decoration.
2. The Characters
Nicolas. Fricking. Cage.
You could tell he was having fun crafting this character, Dracula. He’s menacing yet quirky. Painful to look at yet difficult to look away from. But the most captivating aspect of Cage as Dracula is the way that he speaks.
His speech is the most unique, signature thing about him. It’s slurred and almost indecipherable, but if you don’t think too hard you can make out what he’s saying.
The cadence of his words is unpredictable. And the scariest kind of villain is the one where you don’t know what his next move is going to be. He speaks with an undertone of lethal spontaneity.
Whenever Dracula’s face is on the screen, the energy is next level. He’s absolutely captivating. He understood the assignment and executed it literally within the script, and on screen.
He oozes power and it’s evident why Renfield struggles to hold any power at all in his relationship with Dracula.
Nicholas Hoult plays an adorable Renfield. He completely humanized the clinically psychotic nut-job that Renfield is known to be and crafted him into this relatable, good-natured, well-intentioned guy. You can’t help but root for him.
And Awkwafina, with her signature mannerisms, is able to fit her unique personality into this role without seeming out of place.
3. The Message
The film starts us off in a group therapy meeting for people in codependent relationships. Throughout the film, we return to this group therapy session, checking in on Renfield’s progress.
Despite other characters and storylines to explore, the plot never strays too far from its central message of reclaiming one’s own power after finding themself in a toxic, destructive relationship.
Toxic relationships involve an imbalance of power. This can be physical power, social power, or even emotional power. And if you’ve been in any relationships at all, then this is something you can relate to to some degree.
The power of saying no. The uselessly useful use of positive affirmations (“I am enough”). The ability to take agency over your actions rather than sell your servitude to someone else.
The movie Renfield relays this powerful message in a silly, comedic package. It softens the weight of a serious, heavy message to make it easily digestible and enjoyable to take in.
We see this toxic relationship between Dracula and Renfield also mirrored by Teddy (Ben Schwartz), the Mafia Boss’s son, and his mother (Shohreh Aghdashloo), the Mafia Boss. His insecurity allows him to be dominated by his mother’s desires no matter how uncomfortable he is with her requests.
The movie actually presents many parallels in toxic imbalances of powers between boss and employee, boyfriend and girlfriend, and mother and son. All of the parallels focus on overcoming destructive relationships.
The movie Renfield put an effective spin on the familiar classic, Dracula, making it meaningful while still not taking itself too seriously.
Nobody watches horror/action movies and thinks, I hope the henchman is feeling alright today. Or, does his trusty sidekick even really want to be here? To get the side character’s full perspective and realize that the servant is just as complexly human as the master is refreshing to see.
Though it takes a bit of time to become intrigued by the plot and to get used to the godawful displays of the hot sauce they used as blood, Renfield is overall a strangely sweet film with a lovely central message.
Definitely, something to sink your fangs into.
What did you think of Renfield? Let me know in the comments below!
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Peace, love, and lots of popcorn,