New vampire film is ‘a sloppy mess’

The criminal connection does have one positive effect on the story. It brings in Awkwafina, who is lively and comically baffled as Rebecca, a New Orleans police officer assigned to traffic duty but determined to bring down the Lobos. She and Renfield have a romantic spark, which leads to one of the more inspired satirical sequences. In a montage satirising a rom-com trope, Renfield gets his own bright new apartment, shops for clothes and turns up at the police station wearing a pastel colour-blocked sweater from Macy’s and holding a bouquet of flowers for Rebecca. If only the film had stayed on that track. What We Do in the Shadows, a similar tongue-in-cheek vampire story in both its film and television versions, works because it is committed to its mockumentary conceit, with characters convinced they are just ordinary people who happen to be bloodsuckers. But Renfield’s disparate crime-and-action segments, smacking of a cynical ploy for viewers, constantly pull us away from the only engaging storyline.

Cage creates another vivid, witty character, channelling old movie Draculas from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee. The Count, soon restored to his normal greenish-white pallour, grins and shows rows of teeny little pointed teeth. He glides along with an air of entitlement, and in a rare, funny bit of dialogue, orders Renfield to find him “unsuspecting tourists, nuns, and a busload of cheerleaders”, whose pure blood will nourish him. (Dracula may not be so up-to-date on the supposed innocence of cheerleaders.) But this fun-to-watch vampire never stays on screen long enough to redeem the muddle of a film he’s trapped in. Renfield is worth watching for Cage, Hoult and Awkwafina’s entertaining performances, and not much more.

★★☆☆☆

Renfield opens in cinemas in the US and UK on 14 April

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