by Rob DiCristino
Nicolas Cage plays Count Dracula in Chris McKay’s new horror-comedy, Renfield. Does that sound appealing to you? Do you have the patience and energy for that? Are you in or out? You already know the answers to these questions, and they’re not likely to change. Some would say that Cage — reliable and interesting whether audiences notice it or not — has been building to this performance for a decade, a chance to put away the muted thespian pretense that “rehabilitated” his career in recent standouts like Pig and Color Out of Space and just let that Face/Off freak flag fly. Others would argue that the actor has grown beyond that blunt, obvious mugging and should embrace more layered genre pieces like Mandy and Willy’s Wonderland, opportunities to dig a bit deeper and reclaim the critical notoriety he earned with Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. Renfield is unlikely to sway you in either direction, but it will remind you that the Oscar-winning actor is still willing to do just about anything if you ask him nicely.
Written by Ryan Ridley (Rick & Morty) from a story by The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman, Renfield is sure to draw comparisons to quirky horror comedies like Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows. The two share little apart from leather capes and pancake makeup, however, as Renfield eschews Shadows’ understated behavioral comedy for the brand of balls-to-the-wall action and gore you’d find in Wanted, Kingsman, or other films that have cans of Monster Energy Drink where their consciences should be. Renfield isn’t nearly as crass or mean-spirited as those violent romps, but it’s more than happy to oblige anyone who has ever wondered what it looks like when someone literally gets the shit kicked out of them (in x-ray slow motion, no less). It’s a tonal choice that dulls the film’s central metaphor — that Renfield and Dracula are sympathetic figures trapped in the codependent/narcissist dance — but McKay and his team are betting that their bloody, orgiastic delights will make up for it.
Renfield hits theaters on Friday, April 14th.