Fangs ain’t what they used to be

Will Ferris
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Renfield (15, 93 Minutes)

Remarkably it was only in the past year that a friend dropped the bombshell that Transylvania is an actual country, not a fictional creation of Bram Stoker’s imagination.

The 1897 novel ‘Dracula’ is one of the best stories out there. With a great group of characters and a deep mythology, it is pure gothic horror blended with adventure thriller, even if its blood theme is an allegory for the author’s syphilis.

Dracula, in the novel, is centuries old. Nobody knows the man that came before the monster, or what is really ticking away in his head, even though the character is losely based on the Middle Ags warlord Vlad the Impaler. There’s so much to explore and so much fun to be had.

Even I, myself, am deep into the screeenplay for a fresh spin-off, but there’s only a handful of adaptations that have so far met the grade. So how does Chris McKay’s “sidekick” focused Renfield fare?

Since his very first trip to Castle Dracula, Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has worked under the strict, rule of his master (Nicolas Cage). When they swap Transylvania for New Orleans, Renfield comes to the realisation that his needy employer may not be the friend he mistook him for, and centuries of kidnap and murdering innocent civilians begins to take its toll.

When Renfield gets caught up in an incredibly irrelevant, poorly thought out gangster flick involving traffic cop Quincy (Awkwafina) and mob boss Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz), he decides to swap his bloodsucking boss for the chance of a normal life amongst side characters who seem to spend their screen time doing one thing and one thing only – exposition.

There is nothing more I would love than for this film to be good, but unfortunately it misses every open goal that’s there for the taking. The script has some laughable one-liners here and there, but you cannot weigh your entire story on a couple of laughs.

Outside of Renfield and Dracula, the other characters are totally devoid of any excitement or creativity. They’re just incredibly boring and two dimensional. Watching cop Awkwafina vow to take down the mob because of “what they did to dad” was excruciatingly dull. It’s been done before, again and again.

Solace only comes with the Nics, Hoult and Cage, but with one problem. They are clearly having a great time with what they’re doing. Cage’s interpretation of the infamous count is a sleazy, disgusting control freak with anger issues, even if it does just look like Nicholas Cage doing an impression of Bela Lugosi.

Hoult is likable for someone uually portrayed as a creepy insect eater and you really root for him through the story. The idea of Renfield going to group meetings for toxic relationships is also a very funny idea.

That’s what this film is, really. A bit of fun. One that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is fine for a while, but inevitably begins to harm the story. Furthermore, while you do long for Cage to come back on screen and liven things up a bit, there is an obvious flaw with the writers’ understanding of Dracula.

We all know him to be animalistic, wishing to fulfill his lust for blood. But the writers have him down as an entity committed to world domination.

Dracula isn’t a supervillain. He’s a tragic figure driven by his craving. Have we ever considered he drinks so much blood because he’s actually an incredibly lonely man in a world he doesn’t understand and his indestructible pride transforms him into a toxic, abusive individual? Worth a thought.

Will Renfield be remembered? Probably not. It’s all mouth, no trousers.

RATING: 4/10

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