Renfield, directed and produced by Chris McKay, is a Forgettable Unnecessary Horror Comedy film written by Ryan Ridley from a story by Robert Kirkman, who also served as producer.
Inspired by characters from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, the film serves as a direct sequel to the 1931 film of the same name. The ensemble cast includes Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Nicolas Cage.
The film had a troubled development history, having been announced in 2014 as part of the classic monster universe. However, after the commercial failure of The Mummy in 2017, the project went into development hell. Kirkman then pitched a new version of the film to the studio, emphasizing the comedic aspects of the story. The production rights were subsequently acquired by Skybound Entertainment, and McKay eventually replaced Dexter Fletcher as director in 2019. McKay worked off of Ridley’s script and Kirkman’s original pitch.
Renfield’s production had some difficulties in assembling its cast, with most of them joining between August 2021 to January 2022. Filming took place from February to August 2022, with a production budget of $65 million.
Despite the film’s turbulent development, Renfield had the potential to be an entertaining addition to the horror comedy genre. However, the end result is a disappointment. The film struggles to find a consistent tone, with the comedy often falling flat and the horror feeling tame.
One of the major issues with the film is the performances of the cast, particularly those of Awkwafina and Nicolas Cage. Awkwafina’s performance is particularly disappointing, with her attempts at humor feeling forced and unnatural. She is playing herself as she always does and in this case, it simply falls flat. Nicolas Cage, in particular, is completely over-the-top as Dracula, making it difficult to take his character seriously. While some may argue that his performance is intentionally campy, it only serves to undermine any sense of fear that the film tries to create.
In contrast, Nicholas Hoult does his best as the titular Renfield, but the character lacks the complexity and depth that would make him truly compelling. Ben Schwartz and Shohreh Aghdashloo give the most notable performances, but they are not enough to salvage the film.
The supporting cast is largely forgettable, with many of the characters feeling underdeveloped and unnecessary. The script fails to fully explore the potential of its premise, relying on predictable and clichéd tropes.
The film’s pacing is also problematic. The slow first act drags on for too long, while the final act feels rushed and unsatisfying. The action scenes, which should have been a highlight of the film, feel lackluster and unexciting.
Another issue with Renfield is the lack of atmosphere and tension. While the film has some effective visuals, it fails to create a sense of dread or fear. The horror elements are toned down in favor of slapstick humor, and as a result, the film lacks the necessary balance between the two genres.
In conclusion, Renfield’s troubled development history may have affected its final outcome. Despite the potential for an entertaining horror comedy, the film falls short due to its inconsistent tone, uneven performances, problematic pacing, and lack of atmosphere. While it’s not a complete failure, there are better options out there for those looking for a good scare and a laugh. Ultimately, Renfield is a forgettable addition to the horror comedy genre that fails to live up to its potential.