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We all know someone who would happily describe their boss as a “bit of a monster”. Yet in between juggling competing priorities, meeting impossible deadlines, dealing with temper tantrums, and accommodating over-inflated egos, thankfully most of those people never had to deal with an actual immortal creature of the night with a taste for the blood of the innocent.
Sadly, for English lawyer R. M. Renfield (played by X-Men star Nicholas Hoult), he has spent the better part of a century pandering to the strange whims and petty demands of none other than Count Dracula himself. Promising an off-the-wall performance by the legendary Nicolas Cage, this latest reimagining of Bram Stoker’s famous vampire sees The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent star go full Bela Lugosi.
From the moment audiences caught their first look at Cage’s Dracula, it was clear that Renfield would be paying homage to Lugosi’s classic 1931 monster film. Yet not only does Cage’s famous bloodsucker don the iconic look made famous in Universal’s original outing, but the star himself has revealed they even went as far as matching many of Lugosi’s scenes beat for beat.
“So what would happen was, Nick and I would be on set and then they would play, on video playback and sound playback, Dwight Frye. Then we would hear it and then he would ping-pong and recreate it, and then they would do Bela Lugosi and I would hear and ping-pong, and recreate,” Cage explained in a previous interview with Collider.
“So it was like ‘action,’ playback, ‘action,’ playback, ‘action’ until we got into this groove. We had to line it up specifically with the frame from the ‘30s classic. So every move had to match. It was a timing and a vocal.”
Yet Renfield promises to offer viewers so much more than faithful recreations of famous moments in cinema history. Based on a story created by The Walking Dead and Invincible creator Robert Kirkman, and using a screenplay penned by Rick and Morty writer Ryan Ridley, Renfield is set to serve up a unique and hilarious twist on the Dracula legend.
“Ryan Ridley did an amazing job with the script,” Hoult explained to Screen Rant. “It was very funny and charming. The most interesting thing was the regret of Renfield. As someone who’s been charmed by Dracula and gone to work for him, but lost all of himself along that.”
Set some 90 years after Hoult’s Renfield first encounters Cage’s Dracula and becomes his faithful henchman, decades spent pandering to his master’s whims and enduring endless abuse finally becomes too much for him to stand. While Renfield’s bond to his vampiric overlord grants him both longevity and the benefits of supernatural strength after consuming live insects, the Count’s hapless manservant yearns to free himself of his enslavement.
After moving to New Orleans to allow Dracula to recover from a near-fatal encounter with a group of vampire hunters, Renfield stumbles upon a self-help group dedicated to persons involved in toxic, co-dependent relationships. Using the group to identify and hunt down abusive lovers and feed them to his master, things quickly become complicated when one of his intended victims turns out to be involved in the city’s underground drug trade.
Suddenly caught between dangerous criminal gangs, corrupt police officers, and an overly aggressive traffic cop (played by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Awkwafina), Renfield finds himself facing far more than the problems caused by having a narcissistic boss. Even if that boss just so happens to be the Prince of Darkness himself.
Quickly becoming a fan-favourite for her own comedic stylings and dry wit, Awkwafina is a perfect addition to Renfield’s already star-studded cast. Described by director Chris McKay as a living “cartoon character”, Renfield marks the actress’ first time working within the horror genre.
“I’ve never really done a movie like this,” Awkwafina previously revealed. “I’ve never done a horror movie. I was really impressed and pleasantly surprised to find that it really does lend itself to so many other different kinds of genres. The character Rebecca, she is more of a straight guy than I have played in the past. She’s very angry, but there is definitely comedy there.”
Also adding to the film’s comedic bona fides is none other than Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz, who joins the cast as the mob enforcer Teddy Lobo. Discovering there are far more frightening things in the world than the threat of criminal syndicates and street thugs, through Teddy the disparate worlds of modern organised crime and promise of an ancient evil without measure collide with explosive results.
If you’ve ever had to deal with an overbearing boss, or know someone who has, Renfield might just be the night out at the movies you’ve been waiting for. Add in a healthy dose of blood and gore, and a legendary cinematic monster played by one of the most iconic and memorable actors of our times, Renfield promises to deliver a toothy mouthful of the most delicious form of offbeat horror comedy.
Get your garlic ready and sharpen your wooden stakes, because Renfield is set to arrive in Australian cinemas on May 25.