The trailer for ‘Renfield’ showed a lot of liters of blood, shots to the rhythm of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and humor like ‘What we do in the shadows’ with Nicolas Cage as the real and true Count Dracula, and the film, which opens on April 14, gives exactly what that first preview revealed. Directed by Chris McKay, after the spectacular ‘Tomorrow’s War’, this Universal bet reveals more of the referential humor it showed in ‘Batman: The LEGO Movie’.
From a script by Ryan Ridley (Rick & Morty) based on an original idea by Robert Kirkmancreator of ‘The Walking Dead’, this horror comedy stars Nicholas Hoult as Dracula’s tortured assistant, who is forced to procure victims for his master and do whatever he orders, however immoral, conforming to as the most bizarre official horror film sequel, since it is, for all intents and purposes, a direct continuation of Tod Browning’s ‘Dracula’ (1931).
That was a Universal production, and that makes it clear its amazing prologue, which puts us in a situation reproducing the texture and most mythical moments of the film with Bela Lugosi. From that first meeting, after centuries of servitude, Renfield seeks to discover if there is life away from the long shadow of the Prince of Darkness, but he does not know how to break that relationship of dependency with “the most narcissistic vampire in history”, a approach to the character reminiscent of Nandor’s in the series ‘What we do in the shadows’.
Actually, that was a code of Vlad the impaler, the Dracula of real life, and who also does the same with his assistant Guillermo. ‘Renfield’ reimagines that abusive relationship between vampire and servant according to the dynamic of the series by Taika Waititi shamelessly borrowing details and even specific moments from a chapter, such as the help meeting group or the name of the traditional ghoul like “familiar”.
Debtor of the best modern vampire comedy
Nicholas Hoult’s Renfield is posed as an ambivalent monstrous superhero, leaving notes of what ‘Morbius’ could have been, but here it is impossible not to relate his character to the zombie he played in the funny ‘Memoirs of a Teenage Zombie’ (2013 ), another highly studied approach to the genre with a impersonal approach and perishable consumption that, like this one, are anecdotal premieres and circumstantial.
The influence of Hong Kong in current Hollywood cinema means that the action of ‘Renfield’, inseparable from the impact of ‘John Wick’ on the billboards, ends up resembling that of the ‘Mr. Vampire’, with flying vampires and elements of wuxia incorporated into a translation of the gothic horror like physical comedy show of jumping and people flying not always by supernatural logic. In fact, McKay’s film gets better when he indulges in more exaggerated splatstick spree.
There are a couple of good sequences with bloody fights and beheadings, alternating, yes, a lazy digital blood with some unusual grotesque makeup in major studio productions. However, she is too self-conscious in her hasty climax, which leaves her with honey on her lips. And it is that deep down ‘Renfield’ wants to be another type of comedy, one with quite a few successes, like Akwafina’s casting, but that ends up getting too entangled in his thesis of toxic narcissism and codependency.
He settles for his codependency joke
Sometimes the central idea becomes a ball, an overly long and redundant joke that is greatly improved when Cage does his idiotic show and it gets lost when it gets stuck in psychologist talks or a romance that doesn’t quite start or work. For better or worse, ‘Renfield’ plays in the league of horror comedies like the ones directors John Landis and Wes Craven made in the 90s, placing vampires in urban settings, and even mixing in film noir and mob-style. ‘Fresh Blood’ or ‘A vampire loose in Brooklyn’.
The difference is that, while those had an impeccable production, this one has a lackadaisical formal finish, with crude digital photography and generic music accompanied by anachronistic songs that are especially poor when the film wants to be funny at the expense of ska, causing more generational cringe than laughter. In the end those details are not so important, because the film has been conceived and will be remembered as the film with Nicolas Cage as a real vampire.
The actor fulfills the feverish dream of his character in ‘Vampire Kisses’ by offering again a histrionic, exaggerated and theatrical recital that fits well with the tone of parody of the group. ‘Renfield’ is a hooliganism full of explosive gore, with 80-90s buddy movie tropes and a snappy cut that makes its 90 minutes fly by, confirming a Universal trend of low-profile works and no-nonsense R ratings. such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Oso Vicioso’ which are being given a chance in multiplexes, despite seeming designed for the streaming market.
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