This has been a truly special weekend for me.
First of all, I launched Midnight Cinephile again and I've been getting the most wonderful comments from folks welcoming me back. Honestly and truly, I would like to say "Thank You!" from the bottom of my heart. I truly feel like I've come back home.
Along those same sentiments, this entire weekend has had a certain feel to it that I was unable to put words to for pretty much the entire duration of it. A certain warmth (besides the unusual heat for early April!) has been festering inside my chest. It was not until this afternoon when we were leaving the theater watching the very same film about to be reviewed, that it finally hit me right between the eyes what the feeling was.
I finally feel like my life is righting course. After so long, I felt like I was finally turning back into me again....and let me tell you something: I've missed me. But there's plenty of time for self reflection later, right now we've got a film to review! Let's do this thing!
Rated R - 1hr 33min
Starring Nicholas Cage, Awkwafina & Nicholas Hoult
Directed by Chris McKay
Let me just start this review by saying that there is a certain action sequence that takes place about midway through the film that I have been waiting for my entire life. Light spoilers ahead so if you don't want to know ANYTHING about the film before watching, skip the rest of this paragraph. I'll wait. Okay, you still here? Groovy. ****** There is an action sequence in which I literally watched a man rip off another man's arms and not only beat him to death with them, but also several other people as well! He also does something else with the arms but you're just going to have to watch to find out what! ******
Robert Montague Renfield (Hoult) was a lawyer who travelled to Transylvania to facilitate a real
estate deal with Count Dracula (Cage). As I'm sure you are aware, he falls under the vampires spell and spends the rest of his existence doing his evil master's bidding. That is the story that we are all familiar (see what I did there?) with. This film takes a much deeper look at the character and just what it means to serve the Prince of Darkness...the toll it takes on your soul and your sanity. Did I mention this is also a comedy?
We follow Renfield and Dracula to modern times in the U.S. living in an abandoned hospital. Dracula got himself pretty fucked up after a run in with some vampire hunters and (as always) Renfield must tend to him and nurse him back to health by supplying fresh victims. The thing is...he's tired of sending innocent people to their deaths, so he starts attending a self help group for people in toxic relationships. As he listens to these poor souls work out their demons, he finds their toxic counterparts and takes them to his master for feeding. Dracula is less than pleased with the...shall we say....less than pure stock of blood being supplied to him.
Meanwhile, a local crime family is causing massive problems for the law abiding citizens and officer Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina) has had enough. Her father was murdered at the hands of the vile Lobo crime family, some of the police force is crooked and on the take and she doesn't know who she can trust. She shows up at a joint called Mulates, which looks like it has a very New Orleans/Voodoo kinda vibe to it. In short, I wish it was real place. Just so happens that Renfield is there, searching for victims (there a table full of nuns AND a school bus full of cheerleaders just dropped in too!) and feeling quite sorry for himself. When he see's Quincy stand up to the son of the crime boss, Renfield is inspired. Perhaps he doesn't have to live in Dracula's shadow any longer.
Long story short, Renfield and Quincy take out quite a few members of the Lobo Crime Syndicate. Renfield starts taking steps toward recovery from his own toxic relationship, starting with a new wardrobe and a studio apartment of his very own. Could there be some romance brewing between him and Quincy? Could be but there's not going to be much to for that because this is after all an action-horror-comedy. Shit goes sideways. Of course it does. I'm not going to go any further with plot....just the set up.
Renfield absolutely delivers on everything it promises and actually quite a bit more. I was expecting to be entertained by the film, but I was surprised by HOW entertained I was. Universal decided to put it into an April slot, but I think that this could have easily held it's own during summer blockbuster season. Well, let me walk that back a wee bit. It could hold up to most summer blockbuster seasons...maybe not against the likes of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts...those are pretty heavy hitters. But still.....I think it would have done just fine. I think that Renfield is going to find itself a cult following quite quickly.
Let's get a bit more cerebral here. This is a Hollywood film. A Universal film at that. Which means that they have at their disposal certain...shall we say...historical footage of Dracula. I'm 100% sure if the actual footage from 1931's Dracula was used and then deep faked with Cage and Hoult overtaking Lugosi and Frye, or if it was just and extremely faithful recreation. To be honest it was such a surprise to me that I was taking it all in and did not get to scrutinize it. Either way, holy shit what an incredible sequence! If you ask me, THIS is the sort of shit they should have been doing with their failed "Dark Universe" that started and ended with Tom Cruise's The Mummy. I could get behind trying a shared Universal Monster Universe again if they went the same direction as Renfield.
Renfield is a pretty intensely gory film. Having said that, it would have been nice if a little more blood was practical effects. Granted CGI blood has made leaps and bounds since the days of say, Van Helsing, but still....you can always tell the real stuff from the digital stuff. Either way, red is red and there was a metric shit ton of it. I'm not sure EXACTLY how much a metric shit ton is, cause I live in the states and we used the ill advised Imperial System. Which, also only used in Liberia and Myanmar...you're welcome for the brief Geographic Units of Measure Lesson™. Anyway, it's a lot. Not like Dead Alive or Evil Dead levels, but it's got some gore.
The film also comes with a strong message about toxic relationships and self worth and it can beat you over the head with it a little bit, but you know what? In this toxic, hate filled world we live in, we could use a little positive reinforcement, even in our action-horror-comedy flicks. So there's that. If you get upset when people try to spread a positive message, perhaps sit this one out.
On a final note, it was SO GREAT to get back to a theater. The Mrs. and I used to be at the movies constantly and a lot of that went to the wayside the past few years. It was so great to get back into it and I loved every second of it!
Let's bring up the Midnight Cinephile Tallies!
BLOOD & GORE: Wear a plastic poncho if you're sitting in the front row!
ALIENS, MONSTERS & MADMEN: Monster royalty right here: The Prince of Darkness himself: Dracula!
T&A: Negative, good buddy!
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is a super fun flick that goes well with greasy fistfuls of popcorn and a nice ice cold soda. Let the summer blockbuster season begin...we're off the a great start!