William Lee is a graduate of UC Irvine and Chapman with degrees in Film Studies and Screenwriting. He has held a life-long passion for all things geeky including comics, film, toys, and video games. He was previously a Senior Reviewer for over a decade with Movie Metropolis (formerly DVD Town). Will is a regular of the convention scene in Southern California and has been attending cons since 1993. You can also find him on Facebook as William D. Lee Photography

Nicolas Cage as Count Dracula is genius level casting. In 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss, the Oscar-winning actor played a yuppie who believed he was transforming into a fanged fiend. Cage actually ate a live cockroach and his bug-eyed manic expression lives on in internet infamy as a meme. Cage finally gets the chance to fully sink his teeth into the Transylvanian count in the horror-comedy Renfield.

As the title suggests, the film focuses on the hapless R.M. Renfield (NIcholas Hoult) who travels to Castle Dracula ostensibly for a lucrative real estate deal. Instead, he is forced to become Dracula’s familiar, his only purpose being to find other victims for his voracious master to feed upon.

After a close encounter with a group of vampire hunters, the toothsome twosome have fled to an abandoned hospital in New Orleans. A guilt-ridden Renfield has grown weary of fetching his boss take-out. While trailing a potential victim, he stumbles onto a therapy group for people trapped in toxic relationships and slowly starts to muster the willpower to stand on his own. Renfield begins to track down the abusive partners of his newfound friends, but their tainted blood isn’t enough to satisfy the dark lord. Dracula wants something more pure like nuns or cheerleaders.

Meanwhile, police officer Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina) has been attempting to take down the Lobo crime family, headed up by matriarch Bellfrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her weasley son Tedward (Ben Schwartz). The Lobos are responsible for the murder of her dad, who was also a cop. Unfortunately, just about everybody else at the precinct are on the take and do everything they can to undermine her investigations.

The paths of Renfield and Rebecca collide when they wind up battling a Lobo hit squad. Renfield is able to gain incredible strength and agility by eating bugs sort of like Popeye with his cans of spinach. Disgusted that his subordinate is saving lives rather than taking them, Dracula joins forces with Francesca in a first step for world domination.

The allure of Renfield is undoubtedly the opportunity to see Nicolas Cage chew scenery as the pasty faced Dracula. It’s clear Cage is drawing inspiration from vampire luminaries such as Max Schrek, Christopher Lee, and Gary Oldman’s theatrical performance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by Cage’s uncle Francis Ford Coppola. Bela Lugosi is another influence to the point director Chris McKay actually mimics the look of classic Universal horror films by shooting black & white flashbacks in 1.33:1. Cage certainly resembles Lugosi’s Count with his eerie cloak and top hat.

Sadly, Cage is merely a supporting player in the screenplay by Ryan Ridley (Rick & Morty), based on a story idea from Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Invincible). The movie focuses more on Renfield and Rebecca, which is almost tantamount to serving lukewarm leftovers over a gourmet steak. That’s not at all a critique of the lead actors. Hoult is immensely likable and charming. He’s used to playing protagonists you want to root for. See also Warm Bodies and Mad Max: Fury Road. Awkwafina plays a toned down version of her usual wisecracking characters and it’s nice seeing her in a primary role, instead of comic relief sidekick.

Although Renfield lacks a truly riveting story, it more than makes up for its deficiencies with grindhouse gore. The blood flows and sprays in copious amounts in an over-the-top and darkly comical fashion. One action scene finds Renfield and Rebecca battling an army of gun-toting henchmen in the middle of an apartment complex. Renfield rips a man’s arms off, swings them around like nunchucks, then javelins them through another man’s chest. Another poor soul gets his face ripped off. Not to be left out, Dracula gets his own unique kill by turning into mist and exploding a priest from the inside out. Renfield refreshingly eschews massive amounts of CGI for practical make-up and effects.

Video/Audio: 9
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The blu-ray is picture perfect with bright, vivid colors. Tiny details like the wrinkles in Awkwafina’s uniform or Nicolas Cage’s gums really shine through.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. The dialogue is crystal clear while the action scenes are very engaging and robust.

Extras: 5
The disc includes a stacked audio commentary with Producer Samantha Nisenboim, Screenwriter Ryan Ridley, Post-Production Editor Noah Cody, Supervising Sound Editor Nancy Nugent, Supervising Sound Editor John Marquis, Digital Colorist Supervisor David Cole, Visual Effects Supervisor Jamie Price, and makeup effects artist Christien Tinsley.

Dracula Uncaged (4:48) looks at Nicolas Cage’s performance and how he drew inspiration from other cinematic vampires.

Monsters & Men: Behind the Scenes of Renfield (12:35) is the standard behind-the-scenes featurette taking us through various stages of production including story development, costumes, and shooting locations.

Stages of Rejuvenation (6:15) highlights the make-up work that went into transforming Nicolas Cage into Dracula.

Flesh & Blood (5:23) is all about how the effects team created the film’s gallons of blood and dismembered limbs.

Fighting Dirty (6:12) takes a closer look at the actual stunt work and choreography that went into the action scenes.

The Making of a Deleted Scene: Renfield’s Dance! (3:34) goes behind-the-scenes on a song and dance number that never made the final cut.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of deleted & extended scenes (including the dance number), along with a highlight reel of alternate takes.

Film Value: 6
Renfield is a fun, but uneven throwback to old B-movies with modern-day action sequences. It’s short, sweet, and never takes itself too seriously. All hail Nicolas Cage.

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