Rotten Tomatoes (3.5/5), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10)
I must admit that I had some doubts about this one going in. Those who know me are well aware that I’m not a huge fan of horror flicks (unless they’re smart horror or campy comedic romps). But director Chris McKay’s refreshingly humorous take on the Prince of Darkness mythology as told through the eyes of his longtime personal assistant, Robert Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), pleasantly surprised me. As a melancholic soul who’s looking to get more out of life than the perpetuation of his unfulfilling tenure as a glorified go-fer for Dracula (Nicolas Cage), Renfield seeks to change his destiny. He begins the process by joining a support group for those seeking to escape toxic, co-dependent relationships. And, not long thereafter, when he learns that his boss has teamed up with a powerful New Orleans mob family in a fiendish plot to take over the world, Renfield joins forces with an assertive, idealistic police officer (Awkwafina) to both take back his personal power and thwart the evil schemes of the conniving, overzealous vampire. Considering the story’s horror roots, there’s plenty of blood-dripping gore as this yarn unfolds, but it’s all presented with a delightfully whimsical, albeit macabre sense of play, especially in its exceptionally well-choreographed action sequences. The narrative also features ample send-ups of the self-help/personal growth community, a story element perfectly juxtaposed to the picture’s other more visceral (in every sense of the word) content, one that subtly and surprisingly has something meaningful to say in the midst of this offering’s pervasive chaos. Admittedly, the pacing lags in a few spots, and the meshing of the story threads could have been handled a little more deftly at times. Nevertheless, despite these modest missteps, the laughs are definitely in huge supply here, thanks in large part to the film’s excellent cast, including the fine performances of Hoult as the lost but transformation-minded milquetoast and Shohreh Aghdashloo as an oily, glamour-puss mob matriarch. But the one who really steals the show here is Cage, who turns in his best work in years (perhaps even of an award-worthy caliber), memorably embodying the character of Dracula and genuinely making it his own, much like what Michael Keaton did with Beetlejuice and Ryan Reynolds has done with Deadpool. “Renfield” is truly a lot of fun, skillfully blended with substantive, deceptively nuanced material wrapped up in a vehicle where such content is least likely expected. So go sink your teeth into this one; you’re sure to have a bloody good time.