As I write this, I’m working on the final chapters of my third Scarlet Order Vampire novel, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. I’m still in the rough draft stage, so in some ways, once I complete this phase, the real work will begin. I’ve been having fun with the book, but I know it needs work to make it better. While working on the novel, it was fun to learn about the movie Renfield starring Nicholas Hoult as Dracula’s famous familiar and Nicolas Cage as Dracula himself. My wife and I decided to make an excursion to see the film.
Renfield is told as a sequel to Universal’s 1931 film, Dracula. As the film opens, we find Renfield in New Orleans in a support group for people in abusive and co-dependent relationships. As he narrates how he came to be there, he tells us the story of his past century or so of existence, starting with a recreation of scenes from the 1931 film. The recreated scenes demonstrate how well Cage and Hoult channel Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye in their performances. In fact, in some ways, Cage feels like he finds a middle-ground between Bela Lugosi and Carlos Villarías, who played Dracula in the Spanish-language version of the film, shot at the same time and on the same sets as the English-language version. We learn that Renfield effectively gets super strength from eating bugs, an offshoot of how vampires gain strength and power from drinking blood.
The reason Renfield is in the support group is that he’s dealing with his guilt over taking innocent people to Dracula over the years. Instead, he’s decided to take abusive partners and spouses to Dracula. The only problem with this plan is that Dracula has no taste for evil-doers and Renfield finds himself stepping on the toes of a drug cartel operating in the Crescent City called the Lobos. Meanwhile, a New Orleans cop named Rebecca Quincy, played by Awkwafina, will do anything to stop the Lobos, who murdered her father.
After Renfield kills one of the Lobos top hit men, Teddy Lobo, son of the cartel’s boss, is sent to dispatch him. Meanwhile Officer Quincy is on the trail of Teddy Lobo played by Ben Schwartz. They all collide at a New Orleans restaurant and Renfield saves Officer Quincy’s life. As the two get to know each other, Renfield decides to take steps to further separate himself from Dracula.
Overall, Renfield was an enjoyable horror/comedy take on the Dracula. I liked how Cage gave us a Dracula who really wasn’t at all sympathetic and I also really appreciated that the film understood co-dependent relationships. After all, the idea is that Renfield defends and supports a being who is addicted to blood. As a fan of New Orleans, I loved seeing the Crescent City in the film and recognized many of the filming locations. Tonally, the movie was a little jarring. It seemed to have trouble deciding whether it was a light horror comedy in the vein of What We Do In the Shadows or a more over-the-top bloody action romp in the style of Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. Also, I felt the inevitable, final confrontation between Teddy Lobo and Renfield could have been a stronger scene.
Although this was a vampire film, I felt the clash of magic, horror, and crime reminded me most of my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. You can learn more about my novel, and even see a short film based on a scene in the novel by visiting http://davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html
Interesting to focus on Renfield, of all the cast.
That’s what drew me in. Renfield of the new movie is based on the character as he appeared in the 1931 version of Dracula. In that version, it’s Renfield who visited Castle Dracula in the opening scenes instead of Jonathan Harker, who visits in the novel. Basically the the movie Renfield gives the character a redemption arc, which I like.