Taking flight: Nicholas Cage as Dracula in the horror-comedy ‘Renfield’.
RENFIELD ***1/2 (93 minutes) MA
Delights aplenty await fans of high-end horror-comedy in the slickly paced splatterfest Renfield, with Nicholas Cage as the pointy-toothed Dracula and Nicholas Hoult doing his best Hugh Grant impersonation as the nebbish Robert Montague Renfield, Drac’s executive assistant.
Set in present day New Orleans, we meet Renfield as a psychologically troubled dogsbody, attending suppot groups in a church hall when he’s not collecting fresh corpses for his boss to feed upon.
He briely gets the brilliant idea of supplying Drac with the bodies of those people who are causing his fellow sufferers trouble.
As promising a premise as it is, it’s soon overtaken by a parallel crime story involving a lowly cop (Awkwafina, quite good here) battling a corrupt police force to bring down a city-owning crime boss (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her daffy son (Ben Schwartz from Parks and Recreation), who killed her father.
Florid spurts of digital blood gush forth from dismembered limbs in the many fight scenes that combine gunfire with magnificently gratuitous gore.
How sweet to see Nicholas Cage return to his vampiric roots – check out the cult 1988 film Vampire’s Kiss in which he famously chows into a live cockroach – but it’s Hoult who brings the lark together as a dork struggling to decide who is the real villain, and how best to vanquish them.
The film is enormous fun with a fistful of good gags and some playful toying with the Oedipal relationship between the cold-hearted crime mother and her petrified, obedient son.
Especially pleasing is how well the two storylines merge, with director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie; The Tomorrow War; Robot Chicken) balancing humour, action and pace, dialing up the silliness without losing the comic tension as Renfield struggles to find some degree of good in his job.
Be sure to sit through the closing credits, too, which revisit the distinctive look of old-school horror movies, with grain, saturated colours and frame splotches paying tribute to the genre’s foundation films. A lovely salute.