Plot: What’s it about?
Ah Nicholas Cage. Just saying the name brings a smile to my face. For the better part of four decades we’ve been treated to his films. He’s done mainstream action films (Con-Air, The Rock, Gone in 60 Seconds), art house (Mandy, Color Out of Space) and even has an Academy Award for Best Actor on his resume. But through it all, highs and lows, he’s still Nicholas Cage and if you cast him as Count Dracula, I think it’s safe to say we know what to expect. Oddly, this is somewhat of a return to the “vampire” role for Cage. I caught Vampire’s Kiss (a movie that, somehow, eluded me for years) in which Cage’s character only believed himself to be a vampire. Here he actually is. Go figure. Credit The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent if you must, but Nicholas Cage is one of those that continues to entertain. And he’s been given a wide berth here. Does it work?
We meet Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), a beleaguered henchman to Count Dracula (Nicholas Cage). This arrangement has been in place for a century but lately Renfield isn’t feeling it with his job/boss. He’s in a support group for people trapped in toxic relationships and the other members are dating narcissists or control freaks. Renfield’s situation is similar, yet totally different. Dracula needs a constant string of victims to remain alive (er…undead?) and Renfield is tired of providing them. Things change when New Orleans police officer Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina) tries to take down a local crime family headed by Bellafrancesca Lobo (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her son Teddy (Ben Schwartz). They’ve got the NOPD on their payroll and it makes solving crimes a bit difficult. Renfield strikes up a rapport with Rebecca and once Dracula gets wind of it, he decides to punish Renfield.
If ever there was a vehicle for Nicholas Cage, it’s here. But Cage isn’t the centerpiece of the film. It’s essentially all Nicholas Hoult. We see Cage’s Dracula in a handful of scenes and, as expected, he steals nearly every one of them. But I think they took the correct “less is more” approach here, focusing on Renfield’s character and not Cage’s comedic flare. Something else the movie gets right is that it overdoes it. I mean literally – with the violence. It’s done in a way so over the top that it’s funny and we laugh as opposed to wince. And there’s actually a lot of history in this film as well. I’d never heard of Renfield and he was, indeed, Dracula’s “familiar.” Hmmm, you learn something every day. Nevertheless, history lessons aside or not this is what anyone would expect from a Nicholas Cage movie, but there’s more to it than that. I enjoyed it.
Video: How’s it look?
Renfield is a very unique film in the way it’s shot. Some scenes are bright, bold and beautiful while others seem to have a greenish tint that showcase some of Dracula’s more “colorful” sides. Lighting aside, the 2.39:1 AVC HD encode is spot on perfect. I honestly couldn’t find a single ting wrong with this transfer and why should we? It’s a new to the format Blu-ray and it looks the part. Colors are bold, contrast is solid, detail is amazing as well (Dracula’s teeth and cheekbones will give anyone a bad night’s sleep). If you’re familiar with New Orleans, there are a few arial shots that might raise an eyebrow. On the whole, though, it’s perfect. Simple as that.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Don’t let the lack of a Dolby Atmos track get you down, the included DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 mix has a few moments that pack a punch (literally, in a few scenes). Gunshots ring out, whizzing by and creating quite the aural atmosphere, vocals are pure and crisp. Is it me or does Awkwafina sound like a 60 year old New Yorker? Directional effects are used sparingly, but effectively. Simply put, it’s a great sounding mix in parts though I feel that a there were a few missed opportunities. Nevertheless it’ll satisfy viewers.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted and Extended Scenes – Eight are included and I usually agree with these being removed, however there are a few here that I felt should have been included. Regardless, they’re here – you just have to look for them.
- Logo Compound & Murder Room
- Renfield’s Dance!
- Mark Gives Renfield Advice
- Logo Gang Meet Dracula
- Coda Kill
- Apartment Fight
- Alternate Takes – Essentially a gag reel that lasts just a shade over three minutes.
- Dracula UnCaged – Go inside the mind of a vampire as Dracula himself, Nicolas Cage, reveals the secrets behind turning a classic character into a memorable monster.
- Monsters & Men: Behind the Scenes of Renfield – An in-depth look at Renfield’s cast, sets, costumes and more as the actors and filmmakers reveal how they modernized a famous terror tale with trailblazing comedy and over-the-top action.
- Stages of Rejuvenation – See how special makeup effects bring the undead to life throughout the four stages of Dracula’s incredible transformation.
- Flesh & Blood – Exploding heads. Peeling faces. Severed limbs. They’re all part of the macabre movie magic that fuels Renfield with inventive action and hilarious horror.
- Fighting Dirty – Stunt coordinator Christopher Brewster leads a look at the training, choreography, and careful execution that goes into the film’s spectacular stunts and fight scenes.
- The Making of a Deleted Scene: Renfield’s Dance! – Nicholas Hoult and choreographer Kathryn Burns pull back the curtain on constructing an elaborate musical number for a fantasy dance sequence.
- Audio Commentary – Producer Samantha Nisenboim, Screenwriter Ryan Ridley, and some members of the crew collaborate on this track. But without a Nicholas present (Cage or Hoult), I couldn’t find it as interesting as it should have been. It’s there if you want it, though.
The Bottom Line
Renfield delivers what it promises – Cage doing what he does best. It’s a fun watch that’s a bit on the predictable side, but with the (massive) talent involved, you can’t help but have a good time. Universal’s disc looks spectacular and has enough extras to warrant a purchase.