It’s perhaps become something of a cliché to say that Nicolas Cage appears to be having the time of his life, as he chews his way through scenery and steals the show in every scene he’s in, regardless of the role he’s playing, or what film he’s in – but here he is, at it again; this time as Bram Stoker’s hypnotic but hideous Dracula.

Though the film is, as is perhaps to be expected, about Dracula’s titular familiar, the spectre of Cage looms large over the whole film and he really does dominate every scene he features in.

Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has been Dracula’s familiar for a century. Being Dracula’s servant/dogsbody comes with some perks; unusually long life and eternal youth, it seems – along with super strength and resilience, though those powers can only be activated when eating bugs.

When an attempt on Dracula’s life ends with the Count disfigured and needing lots more sustenance to survive, Renfield begins targeting a local support group that’s helping people with their abusive, manipulative partners.

Targeting the vile partners of these poor people brings Dracula victims that Renfield doesn’t have to feel guilty about; the group itself also makes Renfield realise that he’s being manipulated and abused in his own relationship with his vampire master.

Targeting these bad people eventually puts Renfield on a collision course with a nasty, widespread organised crime syndicate who have near enough the entire local police force on the payroll – which sees our put upon protagonist teaming up with a good cop (Awkwafina) with her own agenda to take down the bad guys and end the corruption once and for all.

The question is: can Renfield save the day and regain his lost humanity – and will he be able to escape the vile clutches of Dracula once and for all?

Despite a less than glowing critical reception and an audience that just didn’t show up, I thought Renfield was an absolute blast.

It cleverly weaves both Cage and Hoult into classic footage from the Universal Pictures, Bela Lugosi Dracula movies – and Cage’s outfits, as well as his overall look, mimic Lugosi too.

Aside from his monstrous maw of sharp teeth, which give him a much more animalistic look and force him into snarling most of his lines, which is hugely effective.

Clever use of black and white footage aside, the rest of the film is drenched in lurid colour schemes; it’s a great looking movie that basks in a B-movie glow of greens and reds.

Hoult is incredibly sweet as the tragic, lost soul of Renfield; most of the time, you just want to give him a big hug.

Most of the time.

When his powers kick in and he starts kicking all kinds of ass, however, all bets are off.

You see, Renfield isn’t a horror movie. And as much as it delves into some interesting areas about co-dependence and the imbalance of power in all kinds of relationships, at its very bloody heart, Renfield is – perhaps surprisingly – a full on action movie.

Numerous scenes of bad guys getting absolutely torn to shreds with squishy, icky sound effects and gloriously OTT, graphic gore are featured. They’re played for laughs; even a close up of a face getting ripped off doesn’t linger in the mind for how disturbing it is, but instead it’s recalled just because of how hilarious it becomes.

Chris McKay’s eye for shooting kinetic action and covering the screen absolute buckets of gore – with limbs being used and abused in impressively incentive ways too – gives the film an infectious energy that is easy to be swept up in.

The effects are stunning too; a combination of practical effects and CGI, with the latter used as sparingly as possible.

Even in it’s less violence driven sequences, humour abounds – Awkwafina, being the main audience surrogate as she’s introduced to Renfield’s world, elicits plenty of laughs too. Her banter with her colleagues and Renfield himself is a highlight.

I genuinely enjoyed Renfield, finding it to be a unique spin on the Dracula mythos that instead shines the spotlight on one of the lesser known characters of the lore.

Hoult’s Renfield is a charming, tragic – and also badass – figure, played to perfection, in a film that’s destined to be a cult favourite.

You know the type: a film that suddenly pops up again in a decade or so, with people wondering why it got so critically mauled upon release.

Renfield more than delivers as a gloriously gory, hilariously gooey action movie with an awful lot of heart. I welcome its future reinvention as a misunderstood classic.

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