Director: Chris McKay
I had actually intended to see Renfield (2023) in the theater, but it seemed like before I knew it was released, it was gone and being offered on VOD. Here we are about 2.5 months out from the release date, and I saw it on Peacock. So, we are in interesting times.
Longtime followers of the blog may know I'm a bit of a Universal Monsters fan, not least of which is 1931's Dracula. I've seen a few other versions, read the novel, seen a stage play, etc... I figure I've done my Drac homework. And so it was that seeing a movie pitched as a goofy, dark comedy about the woes of being Dracula's familiar (Renfield from novel and the 1931 film, played by the great Dwight Frye) with no one less than Nic Cage as Dracula had a strong appeal.
The trailer featured Renfield (played by Nicholas Hoult, who I think people rightly say they dig), attending group therapy for folks in abusive relationships, which, in retrospect, is maybe not innately hilarious to the twitter generation. So I expected the movie was going to be Renfield and Drac's odd-couple relationship with some gross-out gore humor. And that's... partially correct.
Weirdly, Awkwafina, who had just come off of Shang-Chi, and twitter's flying attempt at a good canceling, was not featured in the ads at all. And she's arguably as important to the movie as Hoult or Cage. She plays a police officer in a cartoonishly corrupt New Orleans police department whose father has been murdered by the Lobo crime family - who are also not in the trailer but feature Ben Schwartz as a wormy heir-apparent and the always phenomenal Shohreh Aghdashloo.
Here's the thing I did not know: the movie is an action-comedy-horror film. There's a whole plot about Renfield maybe wanting to be a better person and it leading to him performing heroic deeds/ teaming up with Awkwafina, and Dracula thinking he's been thinking too small.
If you're like me, and you find acts of horrific violence geared for comedic value to be, in fact, funny as @#$%, this may be a good reason to stream it on The Cock. This movie realized a little CGI blood costs about the same as A LOT of CGI blood, and they went bonkers. But, honestly, the best parts of this movie are:
- the use of Dracula (1931) as a set-up and perfectly recreating scenes from the film
- Nic Cage's unique (in the best way) version of Dracula - that kind of makes you wish someone thought to cast him as the center of the Dark Universe giant mess Universal pondered a few years back. Like, you realize, this totally makes sense, even when he's having a goofy scene with Hoult.
- Shohreh Aghdashloo in general
- Brandon Scott Jones is absolutely perfect as the therapist/ pastor. Give that dude more work.
I wish I could say it all hangs together, but it feels weirdly rushed - like director Chris McKay decided all the scenes were too long, and so the movie never really breathes and nothing lasts long enough for a comedic beat even when funny stuff is happening.
The movie did get some advertising, but I can't figure out what the thinking was. It's *possible* heavily referencing a 90-year-old movie was not the right choice for The Youths. Or that the premise sold in the ads didn't appeal. Or that Dracula is more of a concept these days than something people actively seek out (which is probably worth discussing). I dunno. But it does feel like 2023 audiences are incredibly finicky and aren't going to drop $17 or whatever on a ticket for a 90 minute movie unless it's going to be a slam dunk.