Renfield is a fresh new take on the Dracula mythos. But, it’s more of the Universal Movie Monsters take and less of the classic novel approach. The last person to actively adapt the novel form of Dracula was Francis Ford Coppola and he nailed it. So, how do we revisit Dracula in 2023? Well, we give focus to a supporting cast member and make Dracula into a toxic personality.
Vampires are getting meta again
Metafiction is annoying. But, writing about metafiction is even more annoying. So, when we talk about our fictional narrative and constructs in the roundabout sense, it becomes a bit much. Seeing as how we live in the era of TikTok and everyone performing for a camera, it’s no shock to see Dracula via the filter of self-help.
It makes sense to have a Dracula movie that is aware about being a look at the fictional concept of Dracula and how modern society interprets it. By going through the co-dependent self-help view of things, we have a different take on Dracula. Nicolas Cage still portrays Dracula as an apex predator, but his victims seem to be victims before the bite.
That Robert Kirkman came up with the plot?
Invincible and The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman came up with the idea for Renfield and setup the movie at his Skybound Entertainment. While the production house is thriving, it’s pleasant to see them branching out into new arenas. That being said, I’m not 100% loving his take on the familiar concept.
Usually used with witches and blending over to other European based folklore horror, a familiar is an animal or person that serves the wishes of their supernatural master. In Renfield’s case, he gets a bit of Dracula’s power for serving his master and carrying on his whims. The movie brings this up a lot, as they want you to under his powers like he’s some B-rate level MCU addition.
Nicolas Cage was meant to be Dracula
Dracula has been portrayed by many actors throughout the years. Frank Langella made him classy, Bela Lugosi set the template, Chris Sarandon was the dental nightmare version of a Dracula style vampire and then we have Nicolas Cage. A fan of geek entertainment for years, he adapted his weird personality to best serve the Old World monster hiding behind the facade of a wealthy playboy.
What Cage does that other actors haven’t brought to the role is that he makes you believe he has been eating rats, runaways and women of the night for decades. While Hoult plays Renfield as perpertually stepped on, Cage’s Dracula has been wearing jackboots and been doing his best Nancy Sinatra since Day One. When you see an actor bring such comfort to a role, it’s thrilling.
Whenever Cage isn’t onscreen, I’m asking where is Cage Dracula?
Nicolas Cage was born to be Count Dracula. However, he steals focus throughout Renfield which isn’t great for a complete movie. If this was a new take on Dracula with Renfield in the supporting role, then it would play better. But, every moment that Cage isn’t onscreen, the result is lesser with each minute of Hoult and Awkwafina just not being Dracula.
Such is the downside of all horror throughout the decades. When the monsters are the stars, then how can anyone else compare? Ask casuals about who survived your favorite franchise horror movies. Make sure they give you details other than hair color and clothes. They can’t do it, because you can’t compete with personality and visual driven deviants from a far greater time.
Renfield just makes you love movie monsters
Movie monsters built Universal. So, why is the love going so sideways? It doesn’t help that I recently rewatched The Mummy re-imagining that was supposed to kick off Dark Universe. But, I see all of these efforts to dip a toe back in the classic waters with just these misguided takes on how to present them. Renfield is closer to a better idea, but it can’t get over the fact that the monster is much more interesting than the lead.
The times dictate the horror, however we’re still lacking. Killer dolls, supernatural investigators and stock killers only worked in the 1970s because you had more entertainment venues to keep them stocked as B-List entertainment. Now, it’s being gutted to a PG-13 and being offered up as the majority of options from major studios. That doesn’t work.
Even attempts at cashing in on the killer doll phenomenon has leaned towards TikTok dances and people laughing at the little girl robot threat. We live in a time where we can’t have horror narratives without giving an audience the infantile approach of having the horror being neutered or redirected. Vampires can’t exist with it being about mental health checks.
Everything in Renfield outside of Cage is presented through the idea that it is either laughable or not as scary as lack of self-actualization. We get the violent flashbacks to Renfield and Dracula working together to show the initial violence. But, it can rarely happen in the same form without some commentary on the victims of Dracula. That is pretty boring.
What does Universal bring to the Renfield Blu-ray?
The Renfield Blu-ray comes in a deluxe Dracula Sucks edition. You get a DVD and Digital Code with the release, but there are a ton of special features. Everything from alternate takes, featurettes, deleted & extended scenes continue to run rampant. I remember a time when this volume of special features was the standard and not the exception.
The A/V Quality is amazingly sharp for Blu-ray. It’s weird to start getting finicky about a home video format that launched in 2006. But, we’re comfortably into the 4K UHD era and I’m starting to raise my standards for home video presentation. That being said, it is gorgeous to watch with a truly impeccable DTS-HD 7.1 master audio track.
I love the hell out of Renfield and the wonderful Blu-ray package. If you’re mopey about the lack of 4K options, then go check out the 4K Digital HD version on iTunes. Hopefully, nobody goes all French Connection on it.