After the 2017 reboot of “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise flopped both critically and financially, Universal Pictures discarded the “Dark Universe.” A failed attempt to make their own cinematic universe in order to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU for short) in favor of working on individual films without shoehorning multiple characters. Their first project, “The Invisible Man” earned decent reviews and made a lot of money. During production of the aforementioned solo film, Universal green-lit Robert Kirkman’s comedic story of Dracula’s henchman, “Renfield” as a horror-comedy heavily influenced by Taika Waititi’s vampire mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows.” Not the show on FX/Hulu.
Renfield is out right now. So, far it’s making money at the box office and earned mixed reviews. One more thing, Universal’s making another Dracula movie, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter.” Which has nothing to do with Nicolas Cage. I think it’s gonna burn as in Dracula’s weakness to sunlight.
This review contains no SPOILERS. Feel free to check out my non-spoiler article.
Alive & Dead Elements
Alive: Nicolas Hoult, Awkwafina, Nicolas Cage & Ben Schwartz all did a great job for their respective performances. I’m relieved Hoult’s British accent isn’t laughable like Keanu Reeves’s portrayal as Jonathan Harker. No disrespect to Keanu, I have to give him tough love when it comes to a bad performance.
Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, The Tomorrow War) did a solid job directing.
Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Invincible) penned the story. He also produced the film.
Action Sequences display Renfield’s powers and combat abilities. Given Mr. Kirkman’s style of over-the-top gore depicted in “Invincible.”
Humor got me laughing so hard. You can tell Cage’s having a blast onset.
Marco Beltrami (Scream 1-4, 3:10 to Yuma, Logan) orchestrated the soundtrack.
Practical & Visual Effects managed to blend in carefully.
Pacing didn’t feel fast or slow for a 90-minute film. My eyes were glued to the screen.
Cinematography didn’t succumb to technical issues.
Cage stated his iteration as Dracula is influenced by previous actors who played the character including Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee & Gary Oldman. Other influences are “The Ring,” “Malignant” & “An American Werewolf in London.” By the way, Cage said Superman & Dracula are two of his dream roles. He finally played Supes in “Teen Titans Go to the Movies.” He was originally onboard to portray the Man of Steel in Tim Burton’s cancelled reboot, “Superman Lives.” Kevin Smith told a story at a Q&A session about his experience working on a script. You can look it up on YouTube.
Fun Fact: This isn’t the first time Cage played a vampire. Does “Vampire’s Kiss” ring any bells?
Unlike most Dracula films, this one’s set in modern day New Orleans. the “Hotel Transylvania” movies also take place in the present.
Renfield’s chemistry with Dracula and his love interest, Rebecca Quincy is the main highlight. His interactions with them move the story forward. Thank goodness a romantic subplot didn’t feel mushy without shoving an early romantic relationship down my throat. I thought it was done in a subtle way.
Renfield’s given a back story on why he feels co-dependent. Rebecca’s motivated to bring a gangster to justice.
Character Development involving Renfield. Without giving anything away, he learns to stand up for himself as an independent individual.
Although Van Helsing doesn’t appear, Dracula’s archenemy, he appears in stock footage from the 1931 original with Cage & Hoult digitally inserted. It’s the closest thing to a cameo.
Dead: A chase scene with Rebecca abruptly stops without showing how she managed to evade danger from gangsters.
The Final Verdict: A-
I didn’t expect Renfield to be so good. At first, I thought it was gonna be average. Turns out I was entertained from start to finish. It’s my second favorite Dracula movie. I consider the 1992 version with Gary Oldman as my all-time favorite. If you have nothing to do over the week, go out and spend your hard-earned cash on Renfield.