It's simply Nic Cage's world and the human race is just living in it. From the Oscar-winning performance in Las Vegas to seeking out a muted vengeance about his pet truffle Pig, there is nothing that Nicolas Cage can't do. He once thought himself to be a vampire in Vampire's Kiss, but the amazing thespian has gone full bloodsucker in Chris McKay's new horror-comedy Renfield where Cage plays the one and only Dracula and Nicholas Hoult as his hapless familiar. With a top-tier performance from Cage as the Prince of Darkness, along with a mix of hilarious comedy, action, and gory entrails - Renfield is a bloody blast from start to finish.
There's really nobody out there quite like Nicolas Cage in Hollywood or in the world for that matter. Cage completely thrusts himself into every role he says "yes" to, no matter how big or small the film may be. Not only doe Cage deliver lines of dialogue perfectly in any given situation, but he enables his body language to flawlessly perform as an action star, an anxiety-ridden writer, or even a cool-as-ice criminal. In the case of Renfield, Cage utilizes the best parts of what the world knows about Dracula and turns it up to eleven with his performance both in dialogue delivery and in running around biting people.
Luckily McKay (the creator of Morel Orel and The Lego Batman Movie), didn't want to make this version of Dracula sympathetic or have any real layers of humanity to him. Cage's Dracula is plain ole evil and will use anyone to get what he wants - fresh innocent people to feed off of. For more than a decade, this assistant of Dracula named Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has been the vampire's familiar (for more, check out What We Do In The Shadows). A familiar is a human who takes care of a vampire's day-to-day needs, such as housework, bills, dry cleaning, and even scoring their food and blood sources. McKay adds to the folklore by giving Renfield vampire powers of super strength not by blood intake, but by digesting insects that play to some fun and gross gags throughout the movie.
At some point in time, Renfield takes notice of how his master Dracula treats him and yearns for a better life of friendliness and warmth from others. However, Dracula is there every step of the way to abuse and talk down to Renfield, trapping him forever as his slave. That is until a young cop (Awkwafina) stumbles across Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz), a mafia boss's son who has just narrowly escaped death by Dracula which causes Renfield and Awkwafina to meet and form a friendship. Renfield sees this other side of life, one that is full of compassion and love whole Teddy Lobo enlists the likes of Dracula and his powers so that they can take over the world and feed off the human race for blood and money.
It's not entirely blood and guts though. McKay has some brilliant ways to show the undertones of dealing with trauma and abuse from narcissists in a helpful yet funny way. A side story that gets lost in the mix about Awkwafina's dead father and estrangement from her sister comes and goes, but it never deviates too long from the story at hand - Renfield escaping his tortured existence from Dracula. But while the tonal flow is a comedy, vulgar language, and gore - there is ample room for the more tender moments without being stuck through the heart with a wooden stake about it.
Cage just owns this role as Dracula and it should be said this early in the year - worthy of award consideration - but it will never happen. He quickly settles into the role of this Prince of Darkness with charisma and brutality the only way Nic Cage can - perfectly absurd all the way until the end. Hoult brings the titular character Renfield full tilt as an action star and a sentimental man who just wants to do good in life. Awkwafina adds heart and soul to the film while playing it straight. And Ben Schwartz performs Teddy Lobo like his Parks and Rec character Jean-Ralphio on a cocaine binge. It's diabolically funny and memorable. And the action sequences are gory, bloody, and quickly paced with the right amount of viciousness and comedy to conjure up high praise. Renfield is a fantastic time and opens the door for more movies in this universe, hopefully, one with additional Universal monsters in this wacky genre. Highly Recommended!