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Renfield (2023)

Universal Studio begin their second attempt at relaunching their classic monsters universe in the space of just a mere few years. Only this time, they have opted for a much lighter tone and have brought Nicholas Cage along to play the ‘The Prince of Darkness’. Given their last failed endeavour to revitalise a collection of iconic and classic horror characters, it's safe to say this time it is make or break for fans. If 'Renfield' isn't successful, I think this may be the last we see of these characters for a while.

One of the more glarring I found lies with the direction and cinematography. To say it is quite hit and miss at times is and understatement. And whilst I appreciated the black and white grainy flash backs that's are very reminiscent of 1922's 'Nosferatu', other elements such as the face paced and some times shakey camera work felt quite amature and distracting. Even though the fight sequences are choreographed flawlessly, the way some of these scenes are shot compromises the overall enjoyment of the events playing out on screen. Given the $65 million budget, I think more effort should have gone into showcasing these focal points of the movie.

The casting is perfection. If ever anyone deserves the chance at playing count Dracula on screen, it has to be Nicholas Cage. His zaney persona is custom made for this role and it is clear he is enjoying every moment of it. And whilst having issue with Nicholas Hoult in the past, underselling his roles in other movies, I feel here he too was in his element and really brought a different take to Renfield character - whist still keeping those necaceray elements that makes his portrayal relatable. Another rather suprising actor here was Ben Schwartz, who I more recently know as The voice of Sonic the Hedgehog. His portrayal of a mummy's boy want to be gangster was a significant element in the comic relief and I found his comedic timing to be impeccable.

Where this film disapointingly falls apart for me is the over inclusion of the street cop sub-plot of Rebecca, played by Awkwafina. Not only did I find this side of the film to be uninteresting, but it felt like all of the screentime used spent fleshing out this characters backstory made me frustrated at the time wasted not focusing on the Dracula and Renfiled arc. And whilst this does come full circle and have a relevance to the overall story, it's something I feel could have been condensed down a lot more in favour of the co-dependant relationship dynamic between Cage and Hoult.

The visual effects used in this film are truly outstanding. Given my expectations were not that high for this side of the production, I was in awe of the magnitude of care and consideration gone into this. Both the practical and computer generated side, things are done to a very high standard. Granted, the computer generated element is fairly noticable in some scenes, especially with the blood splatter. Yet, when combined with the fantastic practical work, it collectively comes together nicely. There is one scene in particular about two thirds of the way through that features a heavy action sequence with buckets of blood, gore and even limbs flying onto every corner of the screen. To say that this scene was a highlight for me would be an understatement.

Whilst I had overall mediocre expectations for 'Renfield', I came away satisfied with the 1h 30m I spent on this film. It is by no means perfect, but the positives marginally outweigh the negatives that this film suffers from. The relationship and on screen chemistry that Cage and Hoult showcase as Dracula and Renfield is worth checking this film out for alone. If this is the direction Univeral decide to take their monsters universe in the future, I am more than happy to be along for the ride. Don't expect too much from this film and you are bound to have fun with it.



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